Vietnam steps in with aid

June 15, 2001

Flagging public confidence in private colleges has forced Vietnam's ministry of education and training to intervene to help raise standards.

Vu Ngoc Hai, deputy education minister, said that the ministry will work with private and semi-private universities, which the state partially owns, to improve management and financial controls as well as to strengthen teaching and research.

The ministry is also looking into granting private universities access to long-term loans at low interest rates for building modern facilities and the purchase of teaching equipment.

The government has encouraged the growth of private higher education in recent years to ease the burden on the state system of burgeoning student demand.

Private universities account for almost one third of all higher education institutions and teach 18 per cent of undergraduates. Although the government has publicly praised their achievements, a number of tales have surfaced about failing management, poor teaching and lack of equipment.

It is widely claimed that teachers and management are poorly trained. Some establishments are even without such fundamentals as classrooms and a library.

As a result, leading graduate employers, including overseas companies, are overlooking privately educated graduates in favour of their state-educated peers.

With some 2.1 million student applications received so far to sit university entrance exams for enrolment next academic year, there is strong pressure for improvements that will make graduates more employable.

Private education in Vietnam dates back to 1986 when the communist government embarked on its open-door package of economic reforms.

Most private universities are run by Vietnamese business people. The first privately run foreign-owned university is due to open in 2003.

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