Alongside the transformation of central planning into a market economy, private higher education institutions have been adopted in Vietnam since 1993 and now account for 19% of the total higher education institutions and 14% of higher education students.
At present, Vietnam has 425 higher education institutions, or HEIs, of which around 153 universities and 183 two-year colleges are public institutions. These institutions are supervised by the Ministry of Education and Training and 13 other responsible ministries, state authorities, local provinces and state corporations, which are directly affiliated to the ministries. ‘Supervising’ means providing funds and making decisions on rector appointments.
Given that state funding is limited and most public HEIs are under-financed, the Vietnamese government has decided to narrow down the public system by a process of ‘equitisation’ or co phan hoa of some public HEIs, starting with the ones which are able to cover their current expenses from their own revenues. Equitisation involves the conversion of a state-owned organisation into a public limited company or corporation.
The idea of equitisation first arose in 2007 as a way of implementing the ‘socialisation’ of education. The term ‘socialisation’ has a special meaning in Vietnam, referring to increasing public participation in education through investment and diversifying sources of finance. However, in reality ‘socialisation’ is perceived as transferring the finance burden from the state to the people.
The proposal of transforming public universities into shareholding companies in 2007 faced severe criticism and raised great concern among the general public. After a few years, it has returned under the guise of a proposal for the ‘equitisation of public service organisations’ approved by Prime Ministerial Decision dated 22 June 2015.
There are 28 HEIs and two hospitals that are seen as meeting the requirements for fully transforming into shareholding businesses in this round. After their transformation, they will become business organisations regulated by the Law on Enterprises and the Law on Higher Education.