Professor Hoàng Minh Sơn
Professor Hoàng Minh Sơn, president of the Hà Nội University of Science and Technology, talks to Khoa học Phát triển (Science and Development) newspaper about granting self-financing autonomy to universities.
What were the hardest challenges the Hà Nội University of Science Technology faced when it became financially autonomous?
The first difficulty we faced was that we no longer received money from the Government for regular spending and investment.
The second was Government Resolution No.77 issued in October 2014 regarding self-autonomy for universities. Under the Resolution, our university was allowed to make its own investment decisions and change tuition fees and other charges for students. In reality, we could not do that because we had to follow other legal documents, for example the State Budget Law, the Public Investment Law and the Law on Public Employees. In addition, under the Government’s decision, instead of providing regular spending and an investment budget for universities, the Government assigned tasks directly to each university. However, that decision remains only on paper.
Has the university adopted any measures to overcome the financial challenges?
To have enough money to run the university, we have had to increase tuition fees. However, we have to convince the students and their parents as well as the general public that the increase will go together with better educational quality.
In the first few years, we had to use our own reserve funds to invest in infrastructure development and other essentials for better quality education. Luckily, things have changed for the better now.
In a nutshell, the financial self-autonomy has helped many Vietnamese universities to grow using their strengths while mobilising resources from society to improve quality.
In the past, Vietnamese public universities received funding from the State budget and the students paid tuition fees. Nowadays, students, the Government and society have to raise training quality to a higher level. However, if you compare tuition fees in Việt Nam with other regional countries, they are much lower.
What big changes have occurred at the Hà Nội University of Science and Technology since it applied financial autonomy?
Self financial autonomy doesn’t mean the university has been granted outright autonomy. In other words, the university has been granted more rights than it had in the past. The university could develop its own financial regulations to encourage all departments to increase their incomes through various activities, including offering high quality training courses or from their own science and technology designs.
The good news is that we have been able to raise salaries for all staff to much higher than in public universities.
Is the university happy with what it's achieved?
I have to concede that quite a few things should be changed to achieve our real autonomy status.
For example, right now we are faced with many “rules” from the State Budget Law, the Public Employee Law and the Public Investment Law.
The other thing I want to mention is the Government’s financial policy and the State budget allocation for public universities should be changed. The Government should pour more investment into universities that have the potential to contribute to national economic growth.
In Việt Nam, the State has spent quite a lot on science and technology, but not much on research. For example, the Hà Nội University of Science and Technology is placed fourth by the Times Higher Education University Rankings in Southeast Asia in the field of technology after two Singaporean and one Malaysian university.
I’m confident that if the Hà Nội University of Science and Technology receives more funding from the Government, our ranking can even move a step forward._VNS