Applications for ‘high employment’ courses drop

Traditional ‘high employment’ courses like economics, finance, banking, business and information technology appear to be losing their appeal among would-be students in Vietnam, according to universities, which receive student applications in April.

Nationwide entrance examinations are written in July.

Dao Tuyet Hanh, the executive in charge of university enrolment at the Hanoi-based Viet Duc high school, said only 20% of her students submitted applications to economics and related courses this month – a significant drop from last year’s ratio of 50%.

A similar phenomenon occurred at Tran Nhan Tong and Dan Phuong high schools, where applications for economics as a major dropped by 30% and 50% respectively.

And estimates based on overall application numbers show a similar trend countrywide. From 2009-11, official data show that 41% of university applications were for economics and related degrees.

The main reason given for the drop was “saturation” in the demand for economics and business graduates in the labour market, said Phuong Nhi, a Ho Chi Minh-based applicant who eventually selected medicine as her first and science as her second choice.

According to Dr Dang Ngoc Duc, vice director of the Banking and Finance Institute at the National Economic University, more than 10,000 graduate students in his field will face the risk of full or partial unemployment by the end of this year.

Ho Chi Minh City’s accounting and auditing market has been able to meet only around 10% of the demand for jobs in the sector.

Information technology, which was considered the hottest major a decade ago, is in the same boat, but this problem is perverse – while school-leavers seem to be indifferent to information technology as a major, the industry is confronted with a qualified labour shortage.

According to estimates from the Ministry of Information and Communication, the demand from the industry by 2015 will be for some 411,000 technical workers and engineers, while the supply capacity of the higher and vocational education sectors is only around 60,000.

Unlike with economics, however, another reason for the information technology problem is universities and colleges themselves.

Representatives at a forum on education, research and human resource development in information technology, held in December, blamed inappropriate curricula, lack of facilities and out-of-date pedagogy as the main constraints facing the sector in tackling its skills crisis.

This conclusion was “not new”, Nguyen Trong Thanh, an alumnus of the information technology department at Da Nang University, told University World News. Information technology graduates are struggling to find jobs despite skills shortages across the sector, he said – and he is among the unemployed.