Former deputy chair of the National Assembly Committee for Culture, Education, Youth and Children, Professor Nguyen Minh Thuyet, spoke with Giao Thong (Transport) newspaper about higher education reform.
Do you think that our higher education system is too tightly controlled?
Recently, universities gained more authority in such areas as deciding on their training programmes or the type of degrees they grant. These are improvements. However, they are not enough, and it has not pushed our higher education system to the next level. Our universities cannot even decide their mission.
We also have to realise that not all universities are equipped with the capacity to gain more autonomy. That also is the reason why the Government is still maintaining such tight control.
So what can lead to the tipping point that our higher education system desperately needs?
The Government needs to give universities more autonomy, but that also means universities must bear more social responsibility and must be responsible for their quality. Universities must be transparent about their financial activities, admission requirements, quality of graduates and the ability of students to integrate with the workforce.
They have to be responsible for their "products". Autonomy means you enjoy more rights, but also must bear greater responsibility. The universities that fail and do not do their jobs properly will be eliminated by society, which is the market.
Professor Ngo Bao Chau said that our university policies in hiring and retaining faculty members is opposite to that in other countries. Do you agree?
Yes, wholeheartedly. In the West, teaching staff or their faculty members tend to be trained from various institutions instead of the same institution to create diverse way of thinking and working environment. Teaching staff tends to be recruited from various sources. If an institution only keeps their students to stay as future teaching staff, then it would be hard to implement changes and innovative ideas.
At our universities, in some cases, teaching staff deliberately favour their relatives and family members and encourage them to stay at the school after graduation.
Minister of Science and Technology Nguyen Quan recently said that even he and the Minister of Education and Training were not authorised to decide the salary given to Professor Ngo Bao Chau. Does that mean it's not easy to inject changes into a system that is so stagnant?
It means that the authority given to even those at the highest level is even limited, even when we are talking about giving more autonomy to universities. Universities must be able to decide their recruitment policy and if you invite a particular professor, you can decide on the salary and other benefits. Unfortunately, our universities have not been able to do so. — VNS