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.
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!