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Increasing spending to boost quality of tertiary education, says expert

In Uncategorized on June 7, 2010 at 10:24 am

Higher education quality relies on several factors, including how much is spent on students per capita at universities. Professor Pham Phu, a leading expert in tertiary education development, provided Sai Gon Giai Phong with his opinions related to this field.

Reporter: What is your comment about the State’s expenditure per student at public universities?

Prof. Pham Phu: The average State spending per public university student in 2009 was VND7.11 million (US$374), according to a report from the Ministry of Education and Training. Thus, with the current tuition fee being VND2.4 million per year, the input cost per university student now is VND9.54 million per year, or US$500-550 per student.

Professor Pham Phu (Photo: SGGP)

However, a recent National Assembly’s survey showed that the State spending per student was only VND3.5-4 million. With tuition fees added to the amount, the total training cost per student was only VND5.5-6 million, or $300-350.
How much is the training cost per student in non-public universities?

In most cases, the input cost ranges from $250-300. However, at some universities, where the tuition fees are high, the input cost is much higher, at $800-2,000.

You have proposed the NA double the State’s investment rate per public university student. However, as you may know, the State budget for education is limited.

But Vietnam needs to raise investment on higher education to improve the quality of human resources training, an important factor to the country’s social and economic development. Being a WTO member, Vietnam should seek ways to compete with other countries in terms of education quality.

Since 2005, the average unit cost per student has been $22,000 in the US, $12,000 in OECD countries, and $7,000 in Taiwan ( China )… What do you think about the gap between them and Vietnam?

Prof. Phu: Increasing the State investment per student does not mean that we have to reach such high levels of investment, but if Vietnam continues maintaining the rate of $500-550, then it will fail to compete with other countries in terms of human resources quality in the context of globalization.

In your opinion, how much is the reasonable investment rate Vietnam should apply?

According to World Bank experts’ estimates, for countries with high developed education, the ratio of educational investment to GDP per capita is 50-60 percent; for medium developed countries, the ratio is 80-100 percent; and for low developed countries, like Vietnam, it is 120-150 percent. Based on these indications, we can calculate that the reasonable investment rate in Vietnam should be $1,200 per student per year.

But where are the resources for such an investment of $1,200?

This issue can be addressed through a cost sharing between the State budget, students, and the community, including universities.

For the past several years, the structure of input cost per student in Vietnam has comprised 55 percent of the State budget, 42 percent from students, and 3 percent from communities. So if the rate you suggested is to be met, the State budget’s contribution to the input cost per student must double, but this will be hard to do.

Yes, given that the State has spent 20 percent of its revenue in education. Therefore, we should apply the “Japanese model,” which has been applied since late 1970s in South Korea and Taiwan, and then since 1980s in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

Describe that model in detail, please.

The rate of State budget spending in education to GDP in many Asian countries is much less than the world’s average, especially that of many developed European countries. For example, the rate is 28.1 percent in South Korea, 26.7 percent in Vietnam, and 26.5 percent in Malaysia, while in Sweden, France and Germany, the respective rates are 56.7 percent, 53.7 percent and 47 percent. 

Students conducting chemistry experiments in the lab at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Natural Sciences (Photo: SGGP)

With such a modest budget, Asian governments generally focus their resources on more on educational universalization and some scientific and technical fields than on secondary and higher education at public schools. Therefore, students and their families have to cover their expenses on education and as a result, many private schools have come into being to meet the demand.

In Japan, students at private universities accounted for 73 percent of the country’s total number of students in 1996. For the college level, the rate was 92 percent.

Nowadays, the same situation can be seen in South Korea, the Philippines, India and Indonesia.

Has such low State spending on higher education resulted in an increase in numbers of students who take overseas study on a self-sufficiency basis?

Yes, there have been over 50,000 Vietnamese studying abroad at their expense, with total expenses estimated at $0.8-1 billion per year, compared to an estimated total of $500 million spent by the State budget on students who study at home.  

Many universities have coordinated with foreign partners to launch training courses, but some of them are of poor quality.

To ease the cost burden on the State budget, the number of students at private universities should be boosted. Currently, that number accounts for less than 15 percent of the country’s total. What is your comment about this?

According to an estimate made before 2005, the number of private students in Vietnam is expected to reach 30-40 percent of the total this year. If the expectation is realized, the State can center its budget on public students.

If it is the case, the State can lower their contribution to the total input cost per student from 55 percent to 30-35 percent, as seen in many other Asian countries. And of course, the contribution from students, their families, and communities have to increase to 50-55 percent.

Source: SGGP

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