Well-known state academy questioned for staggering number of doctorates

By Lan Ha, Hoang Thuy, An Hong   April 22, 2016 | 07:22 pm PT
A Hanoi-based institute has churned out a staggering number of doctorates, and members of the public are beginning to ask whether it is simply a mass-production line of Ph.D. graduates.

The Institute of Social Science has awarded more than 58 doctorates in just the past three months, said a Facebook user after compiling data from the institute’s website.

The netizen even went the extra mile and found that the institute produced 165 Ph.D. graduates last year and planned to award doctorates to 350 more this year. According to the cybercitizen’s calculations, the institute has been generating one Ph.D. every one day, three hours and 55 minutes.

The Facebook post has gone viral, receiving thousands of likes and shares, and people have started expressing their opinions about the “mass production of Ph.D. graduates”.

Doctors in natural science and technology are struggling to meet several criteria including getting research papers and articles published in international scientific journals. Meanwhile graduate schools are churning out a significantly increasing number of doctoral students in humanities and social sciences, said an eminent professor, expressing his concern that these mass-produced Ph.D.s, when climbing up their career ladders, would become associate professors, then professors who hold important positions.

“If they are doing a Ph.D. for science’s sake alone, it's just a waste of money. But if they pursue a Ph.D. to hold important positions in the government, it would have disastrous consequences for the country,” said the professor.

Netizens promptly responded saying that the main point of a Ph.D. is to conduct scientific research which usually requires at least five years and makes a meaningful contribution.

The online community has raised doubts about Ph.D. subjects which range from “The Characteristics of Communication between People and the Chairman of the Commune People's Committee” and “Pedagogy Students’ Interest in Enhancing Pedagogical Knowledge”, to “Passive Voice in the English-Language and Ways to Translate it into Vietnamese” and “The Expression of Adulation in the Vietnamese-language.” 

Such Ph.D. theses, according to Vietnam netizens, cover "mediocre subjects" which have little or no original contribution to knowledge. 

Not too many Ph.Ds

However social scientists don't think that Vietnam is mass producing Ph.D holders.

Professor Nguyen Xuan Thang from the Academy of Social Sciences said that Vietnam has traditionally focused on natural science without paying much attention to social sciences, but now social science has become more acknowledged for the contribution it can make to daily life.

About the Ph.D. subjects, Professor Thang stressed that contrary to popular belief, the outcome of a Ph.D. project does not alway means an enormous breakthrough which has the "sublime" subject rocking on its foundations. Instead, he said, Ph.D. research has been more about matters of daily life.


The Academy of Social Sciences holds a press conference on Friday amid public concern over "mass-produced" Ph.D. graduates. Photo by HT.

Amid public concern over "mass-produced" Ph.D.s, the Academy of Social Science held a press conference on Friday where Professor Vo Khanh Vinh, director of the Academy, said he believed that you cannot train too many Ph.D.s in science, especially when the number of Ph.D.s in Vietnam is still small, and there is a need to produce good scientists to hold tenure-track faculty positions at universities.

“We cannot look at the annual target of 350 Ph.D.s and say it is a huge number, instead we should look further and compare it with the population of 90 million people,” said Vinh.

The Academy of Social Sciences has 20 faculties with 36 majors and is capable of graduating more than 350 Ph.Ds but limit the number to 350 to ensure the quality, he added.

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