One Less Finger in the Dike: Financial Autonomy & VN Higher Education


At least seven public universities in Vietnam have applied for “financial autonomy” since the government promised late last year that it would give them full control over fiscal affairs, including setting their own tuition rates. 
Two of the applicants – Ton Duc Thang University and University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City – have so far got the permission.

This trend, which began in 2006 with increased autonomy for public universities, including student recruitment, will only accelerate in the years to come.  Other well-known and widely respected universities such a Foreign Trade University (FTU), Hanoi University and the HCMC University of Industry, are still awaiting approval.

As this 11 March 2015 article, Vietnam public colleges sever ties with state, handle own coffers, points out, tuition at Ton Duc Thang University and the HCMC University of Economics will be significantly higher than state limits, currently set at VND550,000-VND800,000 (US$25-40) a month.  The economics faculty will charge students about $600 a year, increasing to $667 this fall and again to $760 next year.

 Students pay tuition at HCMC University of Industry. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach (Courtesy of Thanh Nien News)
Students pay tuition at HCMC University of Industry. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach (Courtesy of Thanh Nien News)

Since there are very few free lunches in life, the trade-off for “complete freedom”, e.g., no tuition caps, is the disappearance of state funding.  What we’re witnessing is nothing less than the transformation of some of Vietnam’s top public institutions from state-funded to independent non-profit entities.  This makes sense in a country in which the economy is rapidly expanding, income and wealth are increasing exponentially and education is highly valued.

Financial autonomy has the potential of benefiting universities and the students they serve in myriad ways, assuming they have visionary leaders and a good system of checks and balances.  Ideally, it will result in improved quality as a result of higher faculty and staff salaries, reduced workload, smaller class sizes, better infrastructure, more student services, etc.  As at universities in other countries, differential tuition means that less popular but strategically important fields of study will be subsidized by some of the more popular programs.  My hope is also that money is set aside in the form of merit- and need-based scholarships for academically qualified but low-income students so that they, too, can benefit from a quality higher education without going into debt.

The times they are a-changin’ in Vietnamese higher education!

MAA

 

Advertisements

One thought on “One Less Finger in the Dike: Financial Autonomy & VN Higher Education

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s