A vocational school in Ho Chi Minh City is offering students MBA degrees from an American university without having to learn a single word of English.
Thanh Phuong from the Academic Affairs Department at Hong Ha Economics and Technology Intermediate School said the school offered Master of Business Administration courses from Southwest American University, an online school based in Buena Park, California.
Academic certificates and degrees earned at Hong Ha are ranked lower than college-level degrees.
Phuong said students don't need to have good English to get into the program.
She said lecturers are foreigners with doctoral degrees who speak in English and use interpreters to teach.
"And you don't have to worry about the final theses as we have samples you can use"¦ And you can also write in Vietnamese and have the paper translated."
Each 10-month weekend degree program costs US$4,000 a student. Each subject is learned for one month, ending with students submitting a 20-30 page thesis in English.
Phuong said if students are too busy or too far away to attend classes, Hong Ha will give them sample theses "for reference."
Around 10 of 30 registered students attended a Total Quality Management class observed by Thanh Nien in late May.
The lecturer introduced himself as Fazli Ku and said he came from Southwest America University.
The students did not pay attention to the lecture, which was translated, and sat chatting in groups instead. When the interpreter asked if there were any questions at the end of class, no one cared enough to speak up.
Many of the students are college and university lecturers in provinces around Vietnam.
A student only identified as T. said "I've paid so I have to attend classes so I don't regret spending my money. But I don't understand anything. Most of the time, I search for information on the Internet for my thesis."
"You simply go to the Internet and search for the information in Vietnamese, then cut and paste it into a complete thesis and have it translated by Google into English," she said.
Another student, who asked not to be identified, joked "after the course, you will be a master of cut and paste."
"Lecturers know the English competence of students," said Phuong. "As long as the thesis mentions the subject matter, you will pass."
Nguyen Hoi Nghia, head of the College and Graduate Department at Vietnam National University-HCMC, said master's degree should not be based on such little training and that investigators should inspect the school soon.
He said similar stories in which Vietnamese schools "cooperated" with foreign ones to offer shady or bogus degrees were too common.
Hong Ha students said the school's principle Tran Duc Tuyen had told them they were receiving MBA training.
But during an interview with Thanh Nien, Tuyen denied that, saying he only introduced students to Southwest American University's remote MBA courses.