Ministry, universities differ on higher education standards

The Ministry of Education and Training should change its approach to higher education and make big changes at universities, said Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan at an online conference on higher education for the 2009-2010 academic year.

Graduates from the HCM City University of Pedagogy. The Ministry of Education and Training will make big changes in the 2009-2010 academic year, Deputy PM pledges.

Mr. Nhan, who is also the education minister, said that in line with this year’s academic theme: “Renovating Management, Raising Education Quality and Focusing on Meeting Demands of Society,” universities and colleges would participate in evaluating the ministry’s management.

They would also help create improved standards and launch new training programs, he added.

 “Because of this renovation, universities will not be peaceful this year,” said Mr. Nhan.

However, the ministry presented only general measures for such an overhaul while failing to explain the specifics of how to revamp the system, which has been increasingly criticized by the public. 

Regarding the quality of new schools in the country, a report presented by the ministry at the conference said that 20 percent of the schools fail to meet standards for infrastructure, lecturers, investment capital, and curricula. In addition, there are no formal regulations for launching training programs or recruiting students, the ministry said.

In addition, penalties for universities which fail to meet standards are not strong enough.

Evaluating the quality of the country’s higher education, the ministry said, “In reality, the ministry cannot control the quality of higher education due to a lack of standards. There is not yet a body in charge of higher education quality.

“The ministry has not had annual reports to evaluate the … quality of universities or the entire higher education system,” the ministry outlined in the report. 

Responding to the ministry, school rectors asked that higher education institutes be allowed to set their own tuition and fees.

Ph.D. Thai Ba Can, the rector of the HCM City University of Technical Education said that universities need regulations allowing them to decide tuition fees and expenses by themselves.

“The Ministry should change the framework of tuition fees and use the state budget to pay the tuition fees for poor students,” he added.

Ph.D. Mai Hong Quy, rector of the HCM City University of Law, said that public universities were facing financial challenges because they were not allowed to increase tuition fees.

“Universities cannot earn enough money to pay for good lecturers or attract good graduates to work in universities,” she said.

“Graduates from schools of law who speak and write a foreign language fluently can earn a much higher salary than lecturers can,” Ms. Quy added.

However, Mr. Nhan said that universities who set their own fees must still follow general rules and the Ministry of Education and Training must have the right to regulate and monitor a university’s operations.

“Education is a special provisory service because poor training leads to [unskilled] graduates,” he said.

“Who will be responsible for poor training? No one other than the Ministry of Education and Training can do that.”

“The responsibility of the ministry is to protect learners’ interests and that does not mean to closely control schools.

“In the case of public universities, the ministry invests and monitors educational quality on behalf of the state,” the minister added. 

By Tieu Ha, Linh An - Translated by Truong Cong Anh

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