Vietnam public colleges sever ties with state, handle own coffers

By Ha Anh, Thanh Nien News

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Students pay tuition at HCMC University of Industry. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach Students pay tuition at HCMC University of Industry. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach


At least seven public universities in Vietnam have applied for “financial autonomy” since the government promised late last year that it would give them full control over fiscal affairs, including setting their own tuition rates. 
Two of the applicants – Ton Duc Thang University and University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City – have so far got the permission.
Others, including Foreign Trade University – one of the country’s top schools, Hanoi University, and HCMC University of Industry, are still awaiting approval.
Speaking to the press last October, deputy education minister Bui Van Ga said the government would not have a quota on the number of public universities with “financial autonomy.”
Since 2006, the government has given public universities more leeway in handling their affairs, starting with recruiting students. 
However, as of last October, their financial independence was still limited and, most importantly, they were still subject to a cap on tuition fees. 
Now in exchange for complete freedom, universities will have to cut themselves off all state funding. 
But with the tuition cap gone, these schools know exactly where to find the money they need. 
Tuition hikes 
Following the government’s approval, tuition at Ton Duc Thang and the HCMC University of Economics will be well past the state limits, currently set at between VND550,000-VND800,000 (US$25-40) a month.
Starting from this year, its economic school, for instance, will charge students VND13 million ($598) a year on average.
The fees will go up to VND14.5 million ($667) in the coming fall semester, and then VND16.5 million ($760) one year after that.
Nguyen Huy Nhut, chief of the university’s administrative department, told Thanh Nien that for some faculties which are not popular, but provide workforce for essential fields, tuition rates are just half of the average.
Meanwhile, representatives of many private universities in HCMC said that they will raise their rates starting the fall semester, saying the adjustments are necessary due to inflation.
Nguyen Quoc Anh, head of the HCMC University of Technology’s PR department, said tuition will possibly be around VND20 million ($970) a year on average, up 5 percent from last year. 
The hike is expected to be between 10 to 20 percent at other private schools, which are often considered less prestigious than public schools in Vietnam, including Van Lang University, the University of Foreign Languages and Information Technology, and the Saigon University of Technology.
On the other hand, tuition at public universities may be the same, as the education ministry will likely delay its plan to revise the fees this year.
Vietnam’s income per capita was over $1,910 in 2013, according to the World Bank.

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