Vietnam’s higher education spending remains abysmally low

By Duong Tam   August 22, 2018 | 10:02 pm PT
Vietnam’s higher education spending remains abysmally low
Vietnam spent $700 per university student in 2017. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen
Vietnam’s spending on higher education has increased in recent years but remains much lower than many other countries, a senior educationist says.

Dr Thai Ba Can, principal of Hong Bang International University in Ho Chi Minh City, told a recent conference on education that the country spent VND16.2 million ($700) last year per university student, a 42 percent increase against 2009.

But it is $1,400 in Indonesia, $9,800 in South Korea and over $16,200 in the U.S., he said citing Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) statistics in 2014.

“This [big difference in spending] is the reason for the weakness of tertiary education in our country today.”

The number needs to rise to at least VND37 million ($1,600), he said.

One way to increase spending per student is to reduce the number of students in public colleges and universities, he said.

Students in public facilities now account for 87 percent of the total number, and if this number is reduced by 20 percentage points, the goal of spending 50 percent of per capita GDP per student would be met, he said.

Other attendees at the conference said Vietnam needs to diversify its sources of funding for education.

The government’s coffers and tuition fees take care of 90 percent of a public school’s spending, according to Dang Thi Thanh Huyen, former head of the Research Institute of Education Management.

But in other countries the sources also include research services, consultancy, technology transfer, campus services, and donations, she added.

Prof Nguyen Trong Hoai, deputy principal of the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City, agreed saying the dependence on a single source of income hinders the development of universities.

China, Japan and other countries in Asia have policies that allow schools to seek more sources, which helps reduce public spending on education, he said.

The government should allow schools to operate like a business and have more control over their finances, which in turn would improve education quality, he claimed.

“Those policies will let schools borrow money from the financial market or invest in real estate.”

Last year Vietnam had 235 tertiary education facilities, including 170 public schools, 60 private ones and five foreign-funded.

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