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Conference highlights obstacles in reforming higher education system

Update: August, 01/2014 - 08:46
Professor Ngo Bao Chau (L) . — Photo dantri.com.vn
HCM CITY (VNS) — In Viet Nam, higher education is perhaps the area needing the most urgent fundamental and comprehensive reform, but it is also one of the most complicated, feted mathematician Professor Ngo Bao Chau told a conference in HCM City yesterday.

Asking what knots need to be untied the most, Chau, who teaches at Chicago University in the US and is the executive director of the Institute of Advanced Study in Mathematics, told the two-day Higher Education Dialogue that it is the question with which everyone concerned with higher education in Viet Nam is focused on.

Creating a university academic corps should be considered one of the knots, he said.

The system of hiring lecturers and researchers at universities is different in Viet Nam from the one in advanced countries where it is competitive and based on merit, he said.

Universities should change this system and the salaries paid to lecturers and researchers should be improved, he said.

They should have policies for "taking full advantage of foreign professors," he added.

Minister of Science and Technology Nguyen Quan said the lack of financial autonomy is the "root cause" of universities' problems.

Though the Higher Education Law prescribe autonomy for them, the government still controls everything, especially the finances, and universities are unable to get money from the authorities for research, one of keys to improving higher education, he said.

Besides, lecturers are "overloaded," with teaching work, leaving them with no time to research, he said.

Nguyen Xuan Vang, head of the Ministry of Education and Training's Viet Nam International Education Development and a former rector of the Ha Noi Foreign Language University, said it is very important that university rectors take the initiative and overcome the lack of autonomy.

Tran Ngoc Anh, an assistant professor of public policy at Indiana University Bloomington, the US, and a visiting assistant professor at Harvard University, said the Ministry of Education and Training should assign an independent organisation to assess the employability of students.

Based on the survey, universities should be ranked in terms of teaching quality and ratio of students who successfully apply for jobs, he said, adding that the ministry can use the ranking to reward and appoint university authorities.

Terry White, Public Affairs Officer at the US embassy in Ha Noi, said in his country the higher education system works in partnership with other stakeholders and establishes long-term relationships between academia, industry, and government.

These partnerships require educational institutions to evolve along with society so that they remain in touch with those they serve, he said.

They require educational institutions that are part of emerging trends in society and not just their observers, he added.

The conference also discussed quality assurance and accreditation in higher and digital education.

It was held by the Group of Education Dialogue, a network of scholars based in major universities in Viet Nam and the US, and the US Consulate in HCM City. — VNS

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