Rhetorical Question: “Why don’t Viet Nam’s universities rank higher in Asia?”

uwn rankings article 3-18

There is a tendency in Vietnam, with the media as an on- and offline amplifier, to engage in self-flagellation about education and other societal issues rather than looking carefully at the broader context and the, sometimes, hopeful reality. This results in journalists and many Vietnamese playing the ‘blame game’. The obvious targets here are the Vietnamese government, including the Ministry of Education and Training, and the nation’s universities.

This is my latest article for University World News.  I wrote it because I think some of the reporting in the Vietnamese media is unfair and doesn’t take into account rankings methodologies.  Follow this link to read the article in its entirety.

Peace, MAA

Three Vietnamese Universities in Asia’s Top 300


Three Vietnamese universities, including Vietnam National University (VNU)-Hanoi, VNU-Ho Chi Minh City and the University of Science and Technology in Hanoi, were ranked among the top 300 in Asia in the QS University Rankings: Asia.  Published annually since 2009, the QS University Rankings: Asia provides an overview of the top universities in Asia.  The rankings are calculated based on nine key performance indicators.

The methodology differs somewhat from that used for the QS World University Rankings® based on feedback collected from the region, the expert assessment of important factors in the region and the availability of data.

  • 30%    ACADEMIC REPUTATION from global survey
  • 10%    EMPLOYER REPUTATION from global survey
  • 20%    FACULTY STUDENT Ratio
  • 15%    CITATIONS PER PAPER from SciVerse Scopus
  • 15%    PAPERS PER FACULTY from SciVerse Scopus
  • 2.5%    Proportion of INTERNATIONAL FACULTY
  • 2.5%    Proportion of INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
  • 2.5%    Proportion of INBOUND EXCHANGE STUDENTS
  • 2.5%    Proportion of OUTBOUND EXCHANGE STUDENTS

VNU-Hanoi is in group 161-170, VNU-HCMC in group 191-200 and the University of Science and Technology in group 251-300.  Since there is no national ranking system, a growing number of Vietnamese universities are anxious to enhance their reputation by appearing in international rankings, including QS, because of their perceived credibility.


Interview with Voice of Vietnam

I had an interview the other day with a reporter from Voice of Vietnam (VOV), Vietnam’s national radio station.  The topic?  US Community Colleges (CCs).  After citing a litany of reasons why CCs have become so popular in recent years among Vietnamese and other international students (e.g., much less expensive than four-year schools, open admission policy, smaller class sizes, excellent transfer opportunities, the chance to experience two very different regions of the US, etc.), the reporter asked me to mention some disadvantages.  The first one that came to mind is the fact that most CCs do not offer on-campus housing.   This is changing, slowly but surely, among many CCs that recruit internationally. 

There was a excellent question about rankings and how students and parents can determine the quality of a given CC.  Since CCs are not ranked – for all of their imperfections and shortcomings, rankings are a useful tool for US and international students who are attempting to create a short list from among thousands of colleges and universities – this is a problemtic issue.  Yes, they’re all regionally accredited, which provides a baseline, but there’s a wide range of quality among RA institutions of higher education in the US, be they CCs or four-year schools.  Among the reasons I mentioned, this is probably the most important:  Find out which four-year schools most students transfer to.   

What about the visa issue?  Another challenge for students.  I shared what a former consular chief told me about the need for consular officers to put on their “admission officer’s hat” to determine whether or not the young woman or woman standing in front of them is a bona fide student who has a well-thought out plan that makes sense (e.g., study at CC X, transfer to certain school to major in subject Y and complete a bachelor’s degree).  The bar is set even higher for students entering high school completion programs, which are all the rage in Vietnam. 

Feel free to add to the above, dear reader.