After a boom in 2005-10, many private-owned universities and colleges in Vietnam are now struggling to survive losses caused by a critical shortage of students.
A report in Tuoi Tre newspaper Thursday said around 10 of them have been sold in recent years in the southern region alone.
The acquisition market is especially bustling in Ho Chi Minh City, which currently has 74 universities and colleges -- the second highest number after Hanoi’s 114 – it said.
One of the most well-known private universities, Hong Bang University, was acquired by Nguyen Hoang Technology and Education Group at around VND500 billion (US$21.95 million) in June.
The school, founded in 1997, has, after a reasonably good start, faced difficulties getting students and with finances in recent years Tuoi Tre reported.
Last year Hutech Education Investment and Development Joint-stock Company took over the University of Economics and Finance reportedly at nearly VND200 billion ($8.78 million), it said.
Since it was founded in 2007, the economics university has rarely seen its enrollments exceed 50 percent of target.
Van Hien University, established in 1997 but facing similar problems, was acquired by agriculture company Hung Hau Holdings for over VND100 billion ($4.39 million) in 2013.
Universities in other cities and provinces like Da Nang and Binh Dinh have also been sold off acquisition in recent years.
Double or quit?
Private-owned universities and colleges first reported difficulties in enrolling students in 2012, two years after Vietnam's higher education system saw a boom that led to the establishment of 124 schools in 2005-10.
That year many private schools only managed to fill up 30-40 percent of their classes, Saigon Giai Phong newspaper recently reported.
The problem continued in 2013 when more than one-third of schools reported enrollments of less than half their capacity, it said, adding that most of the troubled schools were private.
This year too most private universities and colleges have complained about possible multibillion-dong losses due to lack of students.
Experts said without proper infrastructure and their quality being known, private schools are bound to be hit the hardest since Vietnam has an excessive number of schools.
Students choose public schools with a good reputation and low fees when they have many options, they said.
The number of universities and colleges has doubled in 14-15 years to around 480, though the number of applicants has remained almost the same since 2001 at around 1.1 million, according to the education ministry.
Almost a fifth of them are private schools which enrol around 14 percent of undergraduates.
In recent years the media has exposed dubious academic programs and the poor infrastructure at many private-owned universities.
One of them, the Ho Chi Minh City-based Hung Vuong University, has ended up being banned from enrolling students since 2012.