700 HCMC university students fear graduation delayed over British Council certificate dispute

By Nhat Le, Binh Minh   February 25, 2023 | 05:31 am PT
700 HCMC university students fear graduation delayed over British Council certificate dispute
Students of Ton Duc Thang University in Ho Chi Minh City gather at the British Council office in the city to question about the validity of the Aptis General certificate issued by the council, Feb. 16, 2023. Photo obtained by VnExpress
700 students of the Ton Duc Thang University in HCMC are worried they will not be able to graduate as scheduled after the school refused to acknowledge an English certificate by the British Council.

Le My Phong, deputy head of the Department of Quality Assurance under the Ministry of Education and Training, on Thursday said the British Council in Vietnam and other relevant entities must report back to authorities regarding the fact that the Aptis certificate that the Council issues does not have the same name as the Aptis certificate that the education ministry has already approved.

Ton Duc Thang University requires students to acquire the Aptis General Certificate to graduate, and many of them had taken their examinations with the British Council in December last year.

But the British Council is only allowed by the education ministry to issue the Aptis ESOL International Certificate" starting Nov. 11 last year.

The council's Aptis General Certificate has been deemed invalid by Ton Duc Thang University. Around 700 students of Ton Duc Thang would be affected by the decision.

A representative of Ton Duc Thang said the school has discussed the matter with the British Council, examination partners and the education ministry on Feb. 10. The representative said the Council and examination partners confirmed that issuing Aptis General certificates in the aforemention timeframe was "wrong", adding that they would support students by either allowing them to take exams again for the Aptis ESOL certificates, or refunding the examination fee.

However, a representative of the British Council on Thursday said the Aptis General and the Aptis ESOL certificates are equivalent to one another, and have the same legal value.

This representative said it was the Ton Duc Thang University's own choice not to choose the Aptis ESOL cettificate as a graduation requirement for its students. The Council has requested students to take their questions to the school regarding the validity of their certificates.

Who to blame?

"I don't know who to lean on," said Ngan, a fourth year student at Ton Duc Thang.

Ngan said that on Wednesday, the British Council told her that the Aptis General and the Aptis ESOL certificates were equivalent. On Thursday, Ngan and some other students in the same situation met with the school to discuss the matter, only to receive the answer that the school would not acknowledge the Aptis General certificates issued within the aforementioned time period.

"Both the British Council and the school said they were right. We students don't know what to do when our ceritificates are not acknowledged, which may cause our graduation to be delayed," Ngan said.

Thanh Vinh, another fourth-year student at the school, said it's been over two months since he got his certificates, but everything was still a mess. Vinh said the way the British Council responds is "pushing responsibility back to the school and the students."

Even if the school extends the deadline for the submission of English certificates until October, there would not be enough time for students to study for another certificate with all the work piling up before graduation this summer, Vinh said.

"The problem isn't just about the money, effort and time we spent, but also our plans for graduation for jobs in the future. Who would be responsible if our grduation is delayed, if we miss our job opportunities?"

Several Vietnamese universities are using the Aptis certificate as a requirement for graduation. Examination fees range from VND1.4-2 million ($58-84).

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