Money to spend

 Mr. Michael Crawford, Lead Education Specialist at the World Bank, tells how he views the financial autonomy scheme for Vietnam’s public universities.

Money to spend

 What are your thoughts on financial autonomy in education around the world in general and in Vietnam in particular?

In order to reach high and appropriate levels of performance, universities require the ability to seek and raise resources. Sources might be student tuition, research grants, contract research, philanthropy, public support, or various sources of other self-generated revenue. Financial autonomy is essentially the legal and regulatory authority for the institution to raise and use resources with minimum restrictions. 

In Vietnam in particular, financial autonomy is one part of modernizing the way universities operate. It is becoming increasingly clear that rigid restrictions on what universities can charge students or how they can use their revenue can stifle creativity and effectiveness. 

Vietnam’s economy is increasingly calling for qualified and innovative knowledge workers, and for universities to train such graduates they need greater freedom to raise and use revenue.

 What are the advantages and disadvantages of universities becoming financially autonomous?

The advantages will be that institutions will be able to invest more in providing quality education for students.

Currently, too many talented Vietnamese students and families believe that it is necessary to go abroad to get a high quality university education. 

Vietnamese universities want to match or even exceed the level of quality of universities in other countries, but they need resources to do this. 

The potential disadvantage is that as universities get the capacity to set their own tuition more freely they will set it higher than some students and families can afford. 

Academically qualified students might not be able to attend because they cannot afford the tuition. 

Others countries have mitigated or eliminated this risk by carefully measuring student financial need and creating strong financial aid systems. 

 The Vietnam 2035 report showed that Vietnam’s tertiary education system has not yet met demand for high quality education. Can you tell us more about this? 

The 2035 report notes several areas where Vietnam’s tertiary education system can improve. 

The report supports the acceleration of financial autonomy for institutions, along with the creation of a government-financed financial assistance system for needy students. 

It also encourages further reform of the way institutions can recruit students and the removal of any remaining limits or quotas on enrollments. 

It encourages further development of new ways of admitting students created by the institutions themselves and not by the government. 

It calls for greater numbers of programs, especially programs that are relevant to employers’ needs, and for greater provision of information to students about the future value of their degrees in job markets. 

Perhaps most importantly, it calls for an increase in the number and diversity of institutions and more ease for opening new, especially private, institutions.

VN Economic Times

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