Scrutiny of universities targets more for closure

Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training, or MOET, could revoke the licences of at least two universities in the wake of a recent evaluation by the Hanoi People’s Committee, which inspected 20 higher education institutions operating in the Hanoi region and recommended that two of them be shut.

The private Bac Ha International University, or BHIU, which has its main campus 30 kilometres from Hanoi in Bac Ninh, was found to be operating a student enrolment office and conducting training in Hanoi without a licence or MOET permission, official media reported.

The inspections also uncovered significant problems with another private institution, the University of Technology and Management, or UTM, established in 2007.

“The institution has almost nothing yet,” said Nguyen Huu Niem, head of the professional education office of Hanoi and a member of the inspection team, according to the local publication Dantri.

“They do not have the required facilities or staff so we’ve sent a proposal to the [Hanoi] People’s Committee to halt their operations.”

According to the evaluation report, made public at the end of November, UTM was not following its own commitments – outlined in the university’s application to set up – and did not meet official conditions.

In six years of operation, the institution has not had a fixed address or campus – it has moved around to several locations – and has no named rector or head of academic affairs. The only member of the management team is Acting Vice Rector Do Doan Hai, who is said to be over 80 years old – the maximum age is set at 70 by ministry regulations.

The institution has only seven full-time faculty members, despite advertising that it has 42 regular lecturers including six professors and 21 associate professors.

UTM, which currently has some 300 students, is also suspected of enrolling almost half of them with national examination score certificates that are bogus – local reports have alleged that the students did not take the exam or had results that did not meet entrance requirements, and that some are studying in fields different to those they registered for.

Vietnamnet reported Le Thi Viet Hoa, former head of academic affairs at UTM, as saying that in 2011 the university was only able to enrol about 50 students and had been told by its deputy principal that it would have to close unless enough students were recruited.

“He suggested enrolling more students by accepting those who had taken exams in the security and military sectors,” Le Thi Viet Hoa alleged.

Nguyen Van Thuong, former rector of UTM, claimed he was not informed about the enrolment plans and resigned a year ago. According to his version of events, he requested “ruling out students with falsified documents”. Since then there has been no principal.

With a high unemployment rate for degree holders in recent years, the quality of higher education has preoccupied policy-makers and education administrators in Vietnam. The government’s priority is to boost the quality of existing institutions.

Earlier this year, MOET slashed enrolment quotas at 23 higher education institutions due to their miserable facilities and resources .

The ministry recently opened two independent Centres for Education Accreditation under the auspices of two national universities, one in Hanoi and another in Ho Chi Minh City. The centres are part of a bigger scheme, with initial investment of some VND99 billion (US$4.7 million), to reform the tertiary education accreditation system to meet international standards.