|Students at Ha Noi's FPT University. The lack of a functioning mechanism to assess and effectively communicate information on the quality of institutions makes it difficult for students to choose career paths and college majors. — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Tu
by Minh Thi
HA NOI — Nguyen Quang Huy, a 12th grade student at Ha Noi's Cau Giay High School, will take the university entrance exam this summer.
Huy said he wanted to work in the hospitality industry, yet he was still unsure about which school he should choose.
"It is usually very difficult to find adequate information about a university since most schools only offer generic background information," Huy remarked.
He added that there was little information about separate areas of training on universities' websites. Prospective students were therefore left in the dark about which major to choose and which career path to follow.
Huy said his solution was simply to search for information about the training quality of schools on Google and find feedback from the universities' current students online.
Tran Thu Huong, a 12th grade student at Ha Noi's Phan Dinh Phung High School, has the same opinion.
Huong noted that she would simply ask university alumni for the information she needed rather than search college websites or directly contact schools.
Yet, she said, she wished higher institutions worked harder to improve the communication of vital information.
"I have heard that in many countries, they conduct introductory walking tours so that students can get a sense of what they will experience when they register for a course," she said, adding that she wished Viet Nam's universities would, at some point, do the same.
"It would be even better if Viet Nam had an official college ranking system," Huong noted.
Several other high school students cited the same problem when asked how they found information on colleges while choosing a major.
The fact that higher education institutions need to update and improve their information base was pointed out by the World Bank's Viet Nam Development Report 2014.
Experts pointed out in the report that Viet Nam's higher education and vocational training system still lacks a functioning mechanism to assess and effectively communicate information on the quality of institutions.
Since 2009, the Ministry of Education and Training has asked higher education institutions to provide information relating to the quality of education facilities, teaching and management staff, and income and expenditure.
As a result, over 150 universities and colleges have introduced internal quality assurance systems. Yet, as the World Bank's report pointed out, such systems are not necessarily based on a representative quality standard.
The report added that while the government had established a National Accreditation Body in 2008 to reinforce the quality assurance system at the central level, it has not resulted in the creation of a functional system of external quality assurance and accreditation.
It cited the lack of a decision about whether there will be one or several accreditation agencies and how to secure their independence and funding as an example. The current discussion so far has only focused on whether to accredit institutions or programmes, which is expected to be costly considering the current lack of qualified evaluators.
Also according to the report, while some universities in Viet Nam have conducted tracer studies to offer better information on job placements for graduates in order to demonstrate their graduates' success, the use of such studies is not systematic.
Searching for training information on many universities' websites, such as those of the Viet Nam Trade Union University or Ha Noi Architecture University, Viet Nam News found that the information offered is mostly generic.
While the contact information for departments and lecturers is published clearly on these websites, there is hardly any insightful information, such as the specific curricula for a course or which career a student can opt for after graduation by following a certain course of study.
Vo Sy Manh, director of the Foreign Trade University's Centre for Quality Assurance, said adequate attention had yet to be given to universities' website development.
While there are many reasons for the dearth of information, higher education institutions do not consider their own websites to be a medium for connecting with prospective students, Manh remarked.
Regarding the tracer studies of graduates' placements, educational experts have stated that schools have made efforts to offer better information, yet challenges remain.
Nguyen Thanh An, a quality assurance official from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Law, noted that universities were currently conducting statistics collection and tracer surveys on their own without following the criteria issued by the Ministry of Education and Training or using standard software.
Both An and Manh said it was difficult to get in touch with graduates to conduct surveys as the development of an alumni network is poor and graduates are not very cooperative.
Sy pointed out that the expenses involved in collecting statistics and conducting surveys were very high, and the entire process was very time-consuming. — VNS