The quality of Vietnam-trained PhD holders is under fire following a surge in numbers over the past decade despite underdeveloped graduate facilities.
In April, a graduate academy in Vietnam sparked widespread concern when it was found to be enrolling up to 350 PhD students annually, many of whom wound up graduating with doctoral degrees in topics considered too trivial for their academic level.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. While doctoral training in Vietnam has long been questioned for its prioritization of quantity over quality, locally trained doctorate degree holders also fail to contribute to the country’s research portfolio.
In the early 2000s, Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) set a goal of having around 20,000 PhD holders in the country by the year 2020.
Currently, the number exceeds 24,000, surpassing the ministry’s initial goal by a huge margin, despite a deadline still four years away, according to figures provided by the National Agency for Science and Information Technology.
Among these, 15,000 serve as professors at universities across the country, according to MoET.
Deputy Minister of Education Bui Van Ga admitted that the quality of doctoral programs in Vietnam varies between institutions and that most common setbacks include a lack of instructional professors, research facilities, and materials.
The annual tuition for a doctoral program in Vietnam is capped at just VND15 million (US$670), compared to an average cost of $15,000 per year in other countries.
The lack of financial capabilities means PhD fellows in Vietnam are rarely exposed to the global academic environment through international scientific seminars, Ga said.
The increase in size of graduate institutions, despite underdeveloped training conditions, has played a major role in the devaluation of Vietnam’s highest standard for scientific research, leading to a ‘doctorate inflation,’ the deputy minister stressed.
In 2011, the MoET terminated 101 doctoral programs at 35 facilities in the country for substandard quality of training while handing down warnings to 38 additional doctoral programs at 18 other facilities for their lack of faculty members.
Fifty-seven of the terminated programs had their training permit revoked by the MoET the next year for failing to make improvements.
The MoET also revised its training regulations in 2012 to place heaver restrictions on dossier and evaluation processes at these institutions.
There are currently 971 doctoral programs offered at 158 graduate institutions in Vietnam, 114 of which are universities while the rest are research academies.
These facilities trained 13,598 PhD fellows during the 2015-2016 academic year, according to the MoET.