Việt Nam University Rankings good but many issues need to be addressed

February 23, 2023 - 08:04
Currently, there are two methods to collect data, either with data proved directly by the universities, after which the university rating team performs post-testing, evaluation and ranking, or through entirely independent data.
Students at the Hà Nội National University of Education. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Tùng

HÀ NỘI — The recently-released Việt Nam University Rankings has been met with both praise and criticism from experts in the field. While the rankings represent a positive step forward for higher education in Việt Nam, many have expressed concerns about the system's limitations and potential for improvement.
Lê Văn Út, head of the Research Group on Scientific Measurement and Research Policy of Văn Lang University, said the six criteria Việt Nam University Rankings use for the assessments are comprehensive and cover the quality of domestic universities.

Phạm Hiệp, co-leader of the Education and Policy Science group under the Vietnam National University, Hanoi, said releasing the first-ever university ranking is a good start.

“However, no ranking is perfect,” he told the Zing online newspaper.

He said the ranking is certainly flawed, and the younger universities ranking high are unsurprising.

Some evaluation data are incomplete, he said.

For example, the team only gets data from the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), which is incomplete, he added.

“I think, with 191 universities, data should be taken from Scopus to cover more", he said.

He also said the rankings did not distinguish between single and multi-disciplinary schools. Therefore, single-disciplinary schools suffer more disadvantages.

Sharing the same opinion, Lê Đình Hiếu of Johns Hopkins University also praised the methodology of the rankings.

“The methodology used in the rankings is quite standard with a full multi-dimensional scale. It is quite comprehensive, and that's a good thing," he said.

However, he believes the standard methodology requires that input data be standard to produce a correct ranking. In the meantime, getting input data in Việt Nam is not easy.

Currently, there are two methods to collect data, either with data proved directly by the universities, after which the university rating team performs post-testing, evaluation and ranking, or through entirely independent data.

Hiếu said the Việt Nam University Rankings only used the second method.

He assessed that obtaining independent data may cause the team to accept the available data from the enrolment scheme and public reports of the university, data from the Ministry of Education and Training and of line ministries and Web of Science (WoS).

Important role

Students at Hà Nội University of Science and Technology in Hà Nội.— VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Tùng

Út said the rankings play an important role in the development trend of universities.

He said it is a useful information channel for universities to refer to and adjust operation processes.

Hiệp said: "Việt Nam should have had a university ranking long ago and maintained it for many years.”

The community should be open to the rankings. He said it is a tool that makes the picture of Vietnamese universities more complete.

“The trend of university rankings is inevitable,” he said.

Hiếu said the appearance of the rankings is a good signal and a yardstick for the future development of Vietnamese universities.

How to maintain

Út suggested that a few things should be noted to maintain the rankings.

Firstly, the evaluation method must be scientific and clear, with criteria that fully reflect the level of a university from research to education.

Secondly, the evaluation method must be objective so that the community can verify the university rating team's approach.

Thirdly, the prestige of the university rating team should be increased. Without reputable experts in higher education and data analysis, there would be no good ranking results.

Fourthly, the rankings should focus on independence. If the university rating team's aim is commercial, it can be challenging to obtain an objective ranking.

Therefore, the university rating team should seek funding or conduct research projects on university ranking to obtain funding to ensure their operation.

Hiệp said that to maintain the rankings, they must ensure independence and avoid commercialisation.

He said that the rating team also needs to make timely adjustments and improvements to increase prestige.

He suggested that the State create a mechanism to manage university ranking teams, including requirements for explaining ranking methods and the data collection process. Additionally, the calculation method must be explicit.

The rating team does not necessarily have to put the information on the ranking website, but there should be a reasonable explanation to the managerial agency about the rankings, he said.

Hiếu said that the rankings should allow universities to have the right to counter-argue and supplement data after the rankings are published, creating a two-way interactive channel.

Last Friday, the first-ever Vietnam University Rankings were released, with the Vietnam National University, Hanoi, ranking first.

The others in the top 10 consist of Vietnam National University, Hồ Chí Minh City; Tôn Đức Thắng University; Hanoi University of Science and Technology; Duy Tân University; the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City; Cần Thơ University; Hanoi National University of Education; the University of Đà Nẵng, and Huế University.

The ranking is made within the framework of activities of the non-profit Vietnam Education Index Company Limited (VEINDEX). — VNS