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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

These news items about residential colleges, collegiate houses, and the renewal of university life are posted for readers of the Collegiate Way website. For more about residential colleges and collegiate universities please visit the main Collegiate Way page.

Even Vietnam is Decentralizing Higher Education

— When even communist governments make plans to decentralize higher education, it’s fair to say that something is in the air.

The residential college movement that we support here at the Collegiate Way is but one element in a much broader cultural trend—a trend to reverse the bureaucratic centralization that so captivated American higher education, and society at large, during much of the twentieth century. This period of centralization gave rise to massive industrial universities with 40,000 students or more, and if this were not enough, it even grouped those universities into sprawling state systems with Central Administrations that sought to manage five or ten or twenty disparate campuses, tens of thousands of employees, and hundreds of thousands of students.

But surely the time for these centralized bureaucracies has come and gone. A story published today in Viet Nam News reports that the government-controlled system of higher education in Vietnam will soon be reformed. Individual institutions will be given greater autonomy, and decision-making will be pushed downward within each unit.

Gov’t reform of tertiary education gathers steam

Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Minh Hien has proposed that the Government gradually withdraw ministerial governance over the nation’s universities, a move that has received widespread acceptance from local media as well as educators and State officials.

“Promoting self-reliance and independence is the first step toward a breakthrough in reform of universities and colleges,” Mr Hien said.

Currently, tertiary educational institutions depend on the State for funds and do not have the right to make decisions on teaching staff, enrolment or salaries.

Mr Hien said nearly all university decisions, including administrative and curricula guidelines, must be approved by Government ministries, a process that is hindering the entire education sector.

Historically, each university in Vietnam was set up and managed by a particular ministry or industry to train people who could work in certain fields.

“But this form of management is unsuitable for university development,” Mr Hien said, adding that each ministry should now be encouraged to release their “embrace on the schools….”

“Things would definitely be easier for us without ministerial governance,” Professor Nguyen Dinh Hoi, chairman of the HCM City Medical School, said.

“We have to seek permission for everything from equipment purchase to the way we organise our staff,” he added.

If the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is breaking up its centralized higher education system, isn’t it time that the United States (plural) thought about doing the same?

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2021