Why Vietnam has sudden surge in "production line" doctorates

By Hoang Thuy, Kim Thuy   April 27, 2016 | 08:03 am GMT+7

The overwhelming numbers of doctorates produced by a well-known state academy has made national headlines over the past week. Amid the unabated fever, members of the public have started to question the quality of "production line" Ph.D graduates as well as the reasons behind such huge numbers.

Netizens found that the Hanoi-based Institute of Social Sciences produced 165 Ph.D. graduates last year and plans to award 350 doctorates this year. According to one cybercitizen’s calculations, the institute has been generating one Ph.D. every one day, three hours and 55 minutes.

It is reasonable to assume that people who pursue a Ph.D. plan to hold an important position in the government at some point in their lives, as it is a must for some positions in state agencies.

In 2014, Hanoi issued a plan for its officials that said by 2020, all senior officials at municipal level and 50 percent of officials on the city’s People’s Committee would hold Ph.D.s.

The huge number of doctorates has shocked the internet community and provoked different opinions, but social scientists don't think that Vietnam is mass producing doctorates.

Acting head of the Higher Education Department, Nguyen Thi Kim Phung, said that at present there are about 24,000 Ph.D. holders in the country, 15,000 of whom are working in colleges and universities.

Acting head of higher education department, Nguyen Thi Kim Phung

Acting head of the Higher Education Department, Nguyen Thi Kim Phung. Photo by Duong Trieu

The Institute of Social Sciences was established in 2010 as a result of 17 institutes merging, and the number of doctorates awarded reflects the number of students at the affiliated research institutes.

In Vietnam, an academic institute must meet a certain number of criteria to be eligible to offer Ph.D courses.

“An academic institute must have at least one tenured professor or associate professor and four Ph.D holders in the Ph.D.s it offers. It must also have a board capable of evaluating the results of Ph.D. fellows,” Phung said.