From January 1, Viet Nam National University will enjoy greater autonomy, Phan Thanh Binh, Director of the Board of the HCM City National University told the newspaper Tuoi tre (Youth).
What will be the major changes in the HCM City National University when the Prime Minister's Decree comes into effect?
Since its founding in 1995, the HCM City National University has offered diverse educational opportunities, including technology, natural sciences, basic sciences, social and humanity sciences, literature, foreign languages, and business administration in undergraduate and graduate programmes.
I am very glad to say that between 60-70 per cent of our students find jobs after three months or so following their graduation. And after a year, more than 90 per cent of the graduates find jobs.
As a result, our university, particularly our students, have greatly contributed to the country's socio-economic development.
In our National University, if one of the university members wants to open a new discipline, they have to explain before the National University Council the merits of having that major and their strengths in offering the discipline.
For example, the University of Science - one of the National University members wants to open a discipline in environmental technology.
When the Board of Directors received the request, we had to sit together to discuss the proposal and came to a consensus that the environmental technology discipline would focus on basic studies about environmental science, while the HCM City University of Technology would focus on the application of science and technology in environmental treatment and the Institute of Natural Resources and Environment would focus on practical environmental treatment technology.
The practice of transparency and accountability throughout the process has further consolidated ties between university members.
What are the legal roles played by the decree on the HCM City National University toward scientific studies?
I'm very proud to say that our national university is one of the institutions having the most scientific articles published. From 1995-2010, a total of 5,696 articles were published, of which 787 articles were published in foreign journals.
In addition, we have successfully invited foreign scholars to come to our university to give lectures and helped build our research centres.
I'm confident that the Prime Minister's decree will serve as a catalyst for our university to adopt new policies and mechanisms to further develop our science and technology teaching and learning.
However, I understand this is not a simple issue in the present context of the world economic downturn. We'll do our best to enable researchers and scientists, particularly the young generation, to pursue their dreams and turn them into reality.
The salary of a lecturer who received his or her doctorate degree abroad, and is teaching at HCM City National University, is only VND 3 million (US$150) per month.
Do you think, in light of the new decree, you will be able to raise salaries of lecturers at your university - a very important factor that helps them feel at ease in their job?
This is a very difficult question for me. Although the decree gives us "high autonomy rights," how high it is remains a "mystery" to me. I'm waiting for guidance to implement the document. At present, the budget of our national university comes from four main resources; namely the state budget, tuition fees, our self-income generation and fund from our donors.
Annually, we receive some VND500 billion ($23.8 million) from the State budget for infrastructure construction. For the students' tuition fees, it depends on the students' enrollment - between VND4-4.5 million ($190-215) per student per year.
For our self income generation, mainly coming from the application of our scientific research, it is about VND150 billion($7.1 million) per year.
For money coming from donors, we mainly use it to establish the development fund.
At present, the International University - a member of our National University - has enjoyed a special financial mechanism with tuition about $1,500 per year. Although the required admission points for a student to enroll in the university is 18 points - rather high compared to other universities, yet many talented students have registered for the course.
From the next academic year, we plan to increase the students' admission to the university.
Any way, we will do our best to raise the salaries for our lecturers to make it compatible to their competency and performance.
Do you think that the decree will help to make a basic and comprehensive change to our education sector?
We have developed a proposal entitled A pilot project toward a basic and comprehensive change at the HCM City National University.
In the project, we focus on five major contents. They are as follows;
First, to reform the university management mode
Second, to apply advanced and practical training, which is appropriate to Viet Nam.
Third, to conduct scientific research in service of the socio-economic development in key regions, while creating and developing elite research groups and centres.
Fourth, to make the best use of the autonomous mechanism and self responsibility of a national university status.
And finally, to form policy consultation groups focusing on training quality, verification and certification. — VNS