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Continued crackdowns on foreign-linked institutions in Vietnam

Editor’s Note: Vietnam has certainly been making the headlines this week. It was just announced that a new higher education law will come into effect from May 2013 – more details in the Comment section below.

The Vietnamese government has continued a crackdown on unauthorised foreign-linked institutions operating in the country by blacklisting another seven colleges. According to University World News, this follows the closure and fining of a number of foreign-affiliated institutions in the past six months.

The move signals yet another example of increased government scrutiny of foreign education providers to strengthen standards.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training is tightening up on degree-level courses at vocational institutions, and vice versa, in a move to separate academic and vocational institutions.

Late last month it issued a statement calling on seven named institutions, most of them private vocational and professional institutions, to halt university-level courses.

The ministry said all certificates granted by the institutions so far “will be deemed invalid” and fined them up to 67.5 million dong (US$3,200) as well as ordering the institutions to compensate any ‘damages’ to students – this includes refunding tuition fees, according to Pham Ngoc Truc, deputy chief inspector at the ministry.

However, Pham adopted a softer tone on the issue of recognition, saying degrees already provided would be refused only “in the worst situation” – after the ministry’s education quality examination and verification division had considered the “benefits to graduates.”

Vietnam has said embassies will be alerted by its International Education Development Department to the problem of “unauthorised cooperation” in higher education.

December kick-off

Over 60% of Vietnam’s population is under 30. Young Vietnamese regard international education credentials as a ticket to high-paying jobs. Because many of them cannot afford to study abroad, they often enrol in locally based foreign-affiliated colleges.

Educators in Vietnam say that foreign-linked institutions offering courses that go beyond basic English instruction have always walked a fine line with the government because they are not licensed as universities.

In December, the Ministry of Education and Training levied fines totaling some US$10,000 against three private foreign-affiliated institutions: Raffles Vietnam (some 800 students were affected); ILA Vietnam, a foreign language centre offering degrees from Australia’s Martin College; and ERC Vietnam, the German Education and Research Centre with degrees validated by Greenwich University and masters from the Australian Institute of Business Administration and the UK’s Wolverhampton University.

Singapore under fire

In the latest action, the ministry named three Singapore-linked institutions, which it said were only permitted to provide vocational courses but had been offering illegal undergraduate degree programmes without a licence.

Singapore Information Technology and Business Administration Company, and Melior Vietnam Company – a branch of the Melior Business School in Singapore – were both fined 67.5 million dong.

The Singapore-based FTMS Global Education, which provides professional accounting courses in a number of countries in Asia and Africa including Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Mauritius and China, received a 10 million dong fine.

More players involved

The ministry said the only state-funded institution to be named in the latest crackdown, Hanoi Institute of Open University, was recruiting for college-level courses in association with the Australian Box Hill Institute in contravention of government rules. The ministry said its approval for those courses had expired in December.

The institute had also introduced three new courses for which it had not received approval. It has been fined 7.5 million dong for these contraventions, according to a ministry penalty issued on 24 May after a warning had been given earlier in the month.

According to the official Thanh Nien News another blacklisted institution, the private Hoa Sen University in Ho Chi Minh City, which was formally a school of foreign languages and information technology, had been cooperating with France’s Vatel International Hotel Management School in offering qualifications in international hospitality “without official permission.”

The College of Business Administration and Management, set up as a vocational training institution, had been illegally running undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in collaboration with the UK Association of Business Executives, the ministry said.

Another Ho Chi Minh City institution, the Institute of Finance Administration, had recruited 17 students for a postgraduate business administration programme, and had advertised its intention to offer a doctoral business administration programme – even though it is not an educational institution but an information technology agency and is only authorised to offer English language courses as extra training.

Tightening up standards

According to an academic who spoke on condition of anonymity, academics moonlighting for unauthorised foreign-linked institutions or being lured by higher pay are causing shortages in Vietnam’s public higher education institutions.

A draft law on higher education is currently making its way through the national assembly, and includes standards and rules for what constitutes a university.

In a session examining the draft law in May, some deputies suggested that in the case of foreign-invested universities there should be limits on the proportion of foreign capital allowed. Others wanted to encourage foreign capital by allowing 100% foreign-owned institutions.

And in related news, education and training departments in many provinces and cities have drawn up plans to improve the quality of local English teachers through further training after discovering that most achieved very low scores in international English tests.

The Ministry of Education and Training’s National Foreign Language Project requires, by 2020, primary and junior high school teachers of English to score at least 525 in the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or 5.5 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

The new rules signal an increase in demand for English language teacher-training in Vietnam, as well as overseas training obtained in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Source: University World News

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