VNU-HCMC applying university autonomy to promote innovation

Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City (VNU-HCMC) has identified its mission from 2021-2025 with a vision to 2030 as a pioneer in management mechanism reform to follow the model of institute autonomy in higher education or university autonomy. This model is expected to boost the performance of university governance and encourage innovation. SGGP Newspaper has conducted an interview with Associate Prof. Dr. Vu Hai Quan – Director of VNU-HCMC about this matter.

VNU-HCMC applying university autonomy to promote innovation ảnh 1

Associate Prof. Dr. Vu Hai Quan

Discussing the importance of AU in VNU-HCMC’s strategic direction for the upcoming years, Dr. Vu Hai Quan shared that AU is to actualize one of three strategic breakthrough aims in the resolution of the 13th National Party Congress – developing high-quality human resources.

Governance autonomy helps universities to be more active in employing outstanding, capable lecturers, scientists, and graduates. Organizational structure autonomy helps to build and operate a full system of performance evaluation indicators. Financial autonomy helps to diversify income sources ranging from intellectual property and facilities exploitation to collaborations with businesses, fund raising and operation, expense decisions.

These autonomy aspects ensure that a university does become a place for innovation and social advancement promotion.

Since the beginning of this year, VNU-HCMC has re-organizing its structure to increase its performance. It also puts more focus on the three key industries of artificial intelligence, biotechnology – biomedicine, and modern material technology. It is preparing necessary documents for the establishment of a center for pandemic research so that Vietnam can be more proactive in vaccine, medication for possible pandemics in the future.

Regarding the difficulties that AU application in VNU-HCMC is encountering, especially as to policies and legal frames, the Director explained that AU must go with accountability to display the transparency of related partners. A report using performance evaluation indicators must be prepared to show the uses of state budgets, sponsoring funds, and school fees; the rate of graduates being hired and employers’ satisfaction with their newly employed workers from the university.

To become financially autonomous, it is necessary to have consistent solutions to address the three challenges of no more state budgets, insufficiency of suitable policies for student loans, and inability to diversity income sources. Solving these problems allows universities to welcome students of all financial backgrounds, while avoiding too much favor on hot majors, which normally leads to unbalances in human resources training.

Whenever becoming fully financially autonomous according to Decree No.86 issued by the Government in 2015, a state university will no longer receive regular state budgets and investments. However, this university can precisely calculate and charge tuition fees in accordance with economic-technical norms, which is usually 2.1-3.5 times as high as those before this autonomy time.

Answering the concern whether this fee increase limits the chance of poor students accessing higher education or not, Dr. Quan said that in order to improve human resources training quality, upgrade the national scientific-technological level, and boost innovation for Vietnam to become a creative, independent, democratic, and prosperous nation, it is critical to put higher education at the top priority.

He then voiced two proposals about state investments for university education and financial policies for university students.

Regarding the first matter, there must be an overall strategy for higher education growth in Vietnam, including sufficient analyses, estimates on high-level human resources demands for each development period so that the Government can allocate enough investments for this purpose. These investments should be used for outstanding scientists, training facilities, modern laboratories.

In addition, the national budget for a financially autonomous university should only be stopped completely after a full training cycle finishes (in 4-5 years) to ensure that tuition fee increase strictly follows a prescribed route. Meanwhile, suitable legal institutions and policies should be introduced at the earliest possible time to promote Public-Private Partnership (PPP), scientific-technological research and transfer.

As to the second matter, it is necessary to broaden the student groups eligible for the student credit policy, to adjust loan interest rate so that students are able to afford their daily life and tuition fee. Particularly, it is advisable to reduce the interest rate to 3-4 percent per year at least in student’s learning time. This rate can be increased after they graduate. The loan time is also proposed to be extended to 15 years at the minimum, or 3 times the learning period at university. A commercial credit policy should be introduced as well.