Feb 17, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) has toughened requirements to obtain a doctorate amid harsh public criticism that it’s too easy to earn a doctorate in the country.  The public often refers to current PhDs as “paper doctors,” a term coined by famous 19th-century poet Nguyen Khuyen, to refer to talentless people who bribe their way to the top.

According to the website vietnamnet.vn, there are several new criteria for new PhD candidates.  Standard foreign language skills are compulsory.  Students must prove that they have the skills and knowledge to understand international documents.  Aspiring postgraduates must show published research, scientific activities, and technology capabilities before taking their postgraduate exams.  Before dissertation defense, doctoral candidates must have scientific articles published in “prestigious” scientific journals.

On vietnamnet.vn, Dr. Mai Khoa, who studied at RMIT University, is happy about the new requirements.  He argues that Vietnamese students often lack the publishing experience because of their lack of confidence with English. 

Nguyen Ngoc Oanh, of the Journalist and Communication Academy, agrees that having higher language skills should be required.  He explains that in addition to English, Chinese, Russian, French, Korean, Japanese, and Thai language skills will help Vietnamese doctoral students.

Vu Xuan Quang, vice rector of the Duy Tan University in Da Nang City, argues that the new requirements will force candidates to produce “quality doctoral theses.”  He added that ISI (International Statistics Institute) articles will be an “important measure” evaluate doctoral theses.  He said, “It would be very difficult to assess dissertations.  If postgraduates have ISI articles, this means their research works are read and assessed by international scientists.”

The ultimate goal?  Vietnamese PhDs will be able to compete on the regional and hopefully global stages of academics—and put themselves on the cutting edge of innovation. 

Learn more about studying in Vietnam.

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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