Draft reforms usher in ‘two-track’ masters system

New draft regulations for postgraduate degree programmes – including introducing a two-track system of masters degrees to tackle Vietnam’s need for higher qualified university lecturers – have been released by the Ministry of Education and Training.

The draft, published for consultation on the ministry’s website, proposes overarching changes, even though wide-ranging regulations on postgraduate education were issued just a year ago.

In particular, masters-level courses will be divided into ‘professional’ and ‘research-oriented’ tracks.

Most masters students are expected to enrol in the ‘professional’ category, while research masters students would spend more time on high-level research, preparing them for future academic careers, according to Deputy Minister for Education Bui Van Ga.

Speaking to local media last week, Ga admitted that postgraduate education in Vietnam did “not meet the demands of society or even the educators themselves”, and said it was time for “comprehensive reform”.

The draft also states that higher levels of English proficiency will be required for enrolment in masters programmes, to ensure that graduate students are able to read academic papers in foreign language journals and keep up with current research.

According to the draft regulations, this will require students to have the equivalent of a minimum B1 level in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, instead of the A2 level demanded in the current regulation.

According to ministry data, more than 75,000 postgraduate students were enrolled in Vietnamese institutions in 2012, with 70,000 at the masters level and the rest studying for PhDs.

Postgraduate education has expanded rapidly during the past 20 years, with an average growth of 10% a year in recent years. But the country needs more postgraduates to bridge a shortage of higher education lecturers with postgraduate degrees.

In 2011, only half of the country’s 74,600 university and college lecturers held a postgraduate degree. At Vietnam National University – Hanoi, the country’s biggest higher education institution, the figure was 76%.

The ministry also announced this month that it would send 1,100 postgraduate students and lecturers abroad for advanced training next year, as part of Vietnam’s initiative to improve the professional skills of lecturers.

Postgraduates will be sent on doctoral courses in natural sciences, technology, social sciences and agriculture in the US, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, China, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Canada.