Việt Nam university ranking a good channel for quality improvement

April 03, 2023 - 08:47
Vietnam’s University Rankings (VNUR), the first of its kind, has been published based on standards and quality of higher education and international ranking principles.


A soft skill contest for students at the Hà Nội National University of Education held in March 2023. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Tùng

Vietnam’s University Rankings (VNUR), the first of its kind, has been published based on standards and quality of higher education and international ranking principles. Lê Văn Út, leader of Văn Lang University’s research group on scientific measurement and research policy, spoke with the online newspaper VietNamNet about the issue.

VNUR, the first of its kind in Việt Nam, has announced the top domestic universities for 2023. How do you evaluate the criteria of the rankings?

The rankings judge participating universities on six standards. They are accredited quality which makes up 30 per cent of the overall score, as well as teaching making up 25 per cent. Publication of scientific articles represents 20 per cent, science and technology Tasks and inventions 10 per cent, quality of learners with 10 per cent, and facilities, 5 per cent.

These criteria belong to two main functional groups of a university: research and education. With the standards, criteria and implementation of data collection and processing, VNUR's ranking results can be seen as elaborate and scientific.

The criteria reflects the quality of a university quite comprehensively. Data is collected from prestigious scientific databases in the US and university ranking data in Việt Nam. In particular, VNUR has used data that only experts know such as public data, enrollment schemes and applied research data.

The use of public data will certainly make an important contribution to the standardisation of public information from universities in the near future. Among the criteria, scientific research accounts for 30 per cent. Of that, 10 per cent is for domestic projects and inventions.

This meets the very earnest desire of the community. Many prestigious university rankings in the world have dedicated a very large proportion to international standard scientific research such as Times Higher Education (THE) with 65 per cent, SCImago, 80 per cent, Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) and US News 100 per cent.

A remarkable point is that VNUR only spends 8 per cent for international scientific research journal (WoS) articles (or formerly known as ISI), 7 per cent for WoS publication efficiency and 5 per cent for WoS citations. Universities that only focus on publishing WoS articles are very difficult to get high rankings of VNUR. VNUR will likely help the academic community in Việt Nam to cool down when it comes up to the issue of low/high rankings through scientific research.

The interesting point is that VNUR has criteria or assessment methods such as integration of university ranking results of prestigious university rankings in the world; using the results of university accreditation from national to regional, international levels; using achievements from domestic scientific and technological tasks and inventions; using the entrance admission score, academic materials in the library. This is a very subtle approach of VNUR, and these differences have created a unique for VNUR.


Lê Văn Út, leader of Văn Lang University’s group on scientific measurement and research policy. — Photo

What are the shortcomings of VNUR's criteria from your point of view?

There is always one university ranked higher than another other and vice versa although the statistics in terms of data may not differ much. However, the ranking for universities is always necessary because this is a very useful reference channel for the universities, parents, students and the whole society. In fact, it is very difficult to have a comprehensive university ranking, which means that it can satisfy all communities.

Controversy over university rankings is inevitable. However, it is more helpful to have practical input to make university rankings more complete, and the experts who preside over university rankings should also be open to improve shortcomings so that the next ranking results will be more optimal.

In my opinion, in the future, VNUR may consider the upgrade of evaluation criteria and implementation methods to improve the science and reliability of the rankings. Firstly, it is necessary to further consider the overlap between the criteria in standard 1, which accounts for 30 per cent. Secondly, it is necessary to consider more solutions to assess the quality of WoS publications. Thirdly, the use of criteria on research topics at all levels should consider the role of universities when participating in that topic and the weight of funding. And finally, it may not be possible to stop at the number of patents but to consider the transfer of those patents.

Why do some schools with no reputation emerge in the VNUR rankings while some other schools that have long been evaluated for quality are in very low positions?

This is a very good signal because it proves that Vietnamese universities, regardless of age, have begun to invest and make breakthroughs. VNUR's ranking is based on objective academic parameters, so it is generally fair.

There are old and very prestigious universities but have lower rankings than some young universities. These schools have received zero points for some criteria of accreditation. It is possible that these schools will improve their accreditation criteria and have higher rank.

There is a view that schools ranking high doesn’t mean having good quality. What are your opinions on this?

The ranking is just a channel about the university quality based on a certain set of criteria, not an absolute tool to determine its quality.

Although universities have different rankings, the difference in scores is actually not significant.

It is possible that rankings have not yet determined a clear difference in quality between universities with close rankings. But if the rankings are quite far apart, it is a problem that needs to be solved.

It is inevitable that universities carefully study ranking tactics and implement solutions to get high rankings. This type of rating is very interesting, but unsustainable. A so-called sustainable ranking should be proportional to the overall quality of universities.

In fact, each individual needs achievements to survive and develop, so do universities. Achieving high ranking by prestigious rating agencies is very important. In the world, there have been many university presidents who lost their positions because their universities dropped in rank and there were universities that had to be merged because they did not have a rank.

However, the university rankings must be worthy of respect. Universities can choose a number of spearheads to break through, and have a synchronous development strategy to improve their shortcomings for sustainable development.

University rankings will increasingly improve evaluation criteria and implementation methods. Universities with unsustainable development strategies will soon be relegated to their actual ranking.

There is an opinion that rankings are a competition of universities with financial potentials. What do you think about this?

Any university must have its goals to join the rankings. It also focuses all resources to invest in development to achieve the set goals.

It is necessary to have an optimal development strategy. Money is necessary, but not the only factor. It’s about its strategic vision and human resources. — VNS