Continued crackdown on foreign-linked institutions

The Vietnamese government has continued a crackdown on unauthorised foreign-linked institutions operating in the country by blacklisting another seven colleges. The move follows the closure and fining of a number of foreign-affiliated institutions in the past six months.

The Ministry of Education and Training is tightening up on degree-level courses at vocational institutions, and vice versa, in a move to separate academic and vocational institutions.

Late last month it issued a statement calling on seven named institutions, most of them private vocational and professional institutions, to halt university-level courses.

The ministry said all certificates granted by the institutions so far “will be deemed invalid” and fined them up to 67.5 million dong (US$3,200) as well as ordering the institutions to compensate any ‘damages’ to students – this includes refunding tuition fees, according to Pham Ngoc Truc, deputy chief inspector at the ministry.

Some 900 students are said to have been affected in the latest crackdown, which follows fines against the ERC Institute Vietnam, Raffles International College and ILA Vietnam issued in December, January and March.

However, Pham adopted a softer tone on the issue of recognition, saying degrees already provided would be refused only “in the worst situation”, after the ministry’s education quality examination and verification division had considered the “benefits to graduates”.

Vietnam has said embassies will be alerted by its International Education Development Department to the problem of “unauthorised cooperation” in higher education.

In the latest action the ministry named three Singapore-linked institutions, which it said were only permitted to provide vocational courses but had been offering illegal undergraduate degree programmes without a licence.

Singapore Information Technology and Business Administration Company, and Melior Vietnam Company – a branch of the Melior Business School in Singapore – were both fined 67.5 million dong.

The Singapore-based FTMS Global Education, which provides professional accounting courses in a number of countries in Asia and Africa including Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Mauritius and China, received a 10 million dong fine.

The ministry said the only state-funded institution to be named in the latest crackdown, Hanoi Institute of Open University, was recruiting for college-level courses in association with the Australian Box Hill Institute in contravention of government rules. The ministry said its approval for those courses had expired in December.

The institute had also introduced three new courses for which it had not received approval. It has been fined 7.5 million dong for these contraventions, according to a ministry penalty issued on 24 May after a warning had been given earlier in the month.

According to the official Thanh Nien News another blacklisted institution, the private Hoa Sen University in Ho Chi Minh City, which was formally a school of foreign languages and information technology, had been cooperating with France’s Vatel International Hotel Management School in offering qualifications in international hospitality “without official permission”.

The College of Business Administration and Management, set up as a vocational training institution, had been illegally running undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in collaboration with the UK Association of Business Executives, the ministry said.

Another Ho Chi Minh City institution, the Institute of Finance Administration, had recruited 17 students for a postgraduate business administration programme, and had advertised its intention to offer a doctoral business administration programme – even though it is not an educational institution but an information technology agency and is only authorised to offer English language courses as extra training.

According to an academic who spoke on condition of anonymity, academics moonlighting for unauthorised foreign-linked institutions or being lured by higher pay are causing shortages in Vietnam’s public higher education institutions.

A draft law on higher education is currently making its way through the national assembly, and includes standards and rules for what constitutes a university.

In a session examining the draft law in May, some deputies suggested that in the case of foreign-invested universities there should be limits on the proportion of foreign capital allowed. Others wanted to encourage foreign capital by allowing 100% foreign-owned institutions.