Private schools empty amid shifting market demand in Vietnam

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Students pedal past Phan Chau Trinh University in Da Nang.

A number of private universities across the country are struggling with under enrollment and are failing to meet their targets, despite generous grants which cover 30-80 percent of tuition fees.

An education official said the schools' main courses in economics have become less attractive to students, Tuoi Tre reported Wednesday.

A source from Phan Chau Trinh University in the central province of Quang Nam said, "There are too few students," so the school decided not to open several classes for the new school year which was scheduled to begin last month.

The school's website can no longer be accessed.

Less than one hundred students attended the ceremony marking the start of the new school year, while the school had set a target of 500 students at the university level and 300 for the college level.

The school had whittled down its majors to accounting, banking finance, English and Chinese and planned to extend its enrollment through the end of November.

But it gave up after 370 scholarships worth between 30 and 80 percent of tuition fees for the first school year failed to interest more students.

Hoang Trung Hung, chief of the enrollment office at the university, said the school is only keeping around 20 students who registered for classes in English and Chinese.

A source from the education ministry said the school will have to report regularly to relevant agencies concerning its plans to deal with the low enrollment.

Tan Tao University in the Mekong Delta province of Long An has closed enrollment for the new school year with just 29 new students, 22 of whom will study either international business or business administration.

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It had set a target of attracting 500 new students and had announced US$3,000 scholarships for each of them.

Professor Vo Tong Xuan, the school's principal, said classes will remain open as long as there are students.

Phu Xuan University in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue lured several hundred new students though its target was 1,000.

An academic official said "we have never been in this difficulty. We really don't know how to organize classes yet."

Similar situations have been reported at Ha Hoa Tien and Luong The Vinh universities in northern Vietnam; Thai Binh Duong in the central region; and Tay Do in the Mekong Delta. Though they have extended the enrollment period several times, the schools have not received enough new students.

Call to restructure

Education vice minister Bui Van Ga told Tuoi Tre that the schools have focused too much on economic management training, which has become less popular among students.

Ga said the trend has caused similar problems at big public schools as well.

The School of Economics at the University of Da Nang only achieved around 74 percent of its enrollment target, though it had lowered the test score required for admittance for the first time, he said.

He said schools should do more market research in order to offer the training that is in demand.

"If schools don't have plans to restructure their training systems, they will face more difficulties as students these days are more certain about the careers they want to pursue."

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