New doctoral instruction regulation sparks heated public discussion


A newly introduced regulation on doctoral education and learning – Circular 18/2021/TT-BGDT (Round 18/2021) – was approved by Vietnam’s Ministry of Instruction and Education on 28 June 2021. It has ignited a heated discussion amongst teachers and coverage-makers.

Exclusively, Round 18/2021 dismantled the need of worldwide publishing as a prerequisite situation for PhD graduation that existed in the aged 2017 regulation.

The aged regulation essential PhD candidates to publish two posts in peer-reviewed publications prior to his or her remaining thesis defence. A single really should be revealed in a domestic journal, whilst the other need to be in an internationally indexed journal these types of as Clarivate Web of Science (WoS) or Scopus. The WoS/Scopus indexed posting could be replaced by both a e-book chapter or two intercontinental convention papers composed in a foreign language.

Below the new regulation, the requirement for intercontinental publishing has been eliminated it implies that PhD candidates can now publish only in Vietnamese journals ahead of graduation.

Weighty criticism

Considering that its publication, the new regulation has acquired significant criticism from scholars. Many significant-profile scientists, in both tough and social sciences, have appeared in neighborhood media and social networks to express opposition to the new regulation.

According to these students, the new regulation could sluggish down the ongoing internationalisation of the exploration system in Vietnam.

Speaking to regional media Vietnamnet, Professor Ngo Viet Trung, chair of the Vietnam Mathematical Culture, asserted that “requiring PhD candidates to have an worldwide publication as a prerequisite ailment of graduation is the most aim indicator of a ‘real’ doctor”, given the present-day low high-quality of supervisors and neighborhood journals.

Alongside the very same traces, he and Dr Le Huy Bac, a professor of literature at Hanoi National College of Instruction, argued that the new regulation “had halted the increasing enhancement of [Vietnam’s] social sciences” in distinct.

Professor Bac acknowledged that when the previous regulation was promulgated in 2017, he had not had any content in international publications – but the aged regulation had determined him to publish internationally given that then.

Other noteworthy academic figures also appeared on area media to categorical fears about the new regulation, like Associate Professor Huynh Van Chuong, chair of Hue University, Associate Professor Phan Ha Duong from the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology’s Institute of Mathematics, and Professor Nguyen Dinh Duc from Vietnam National University-Hanoi, amongst other folks.

The formal clarification

In response to this criticism, Ministry of Education and learning and Schooling associates stated that the new plan aligns with the agenda of improving the autonomy framework outlined by the Bigger Education Law’s Modification of 2018.

Conversing to Lao DongThe Labour – Dr Nguyen Thu Thuy, director of the ministry’s Larger Instruction Department, asserted that the new regulation only established a bare minimum bar in phrases of publications for PhD candidates. Greater education and learning institutions experienced the discretion to established a better bar than the ministry’s requirement.

Deputy Minister Hoang Minh Son, who talked to Tien PhongThe Pioneer – argued that mandating PhD candidates to have an worldwide publication, in a countrywide coverage doc, is not a common apply. For occasion, the University of Malaya in Malaysia had to withdraw the requirement to publish WoS/Scopus papers for PhD candidates in social sciences in 2017.


To fully recognize the existing debate, we have to comprehend the context in which the old regulation (Circular 08/2017) was unveiled. Specifically, in 2016 there had been significant concerns at the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS), the most important graduate school in social sciences in Vietnam, about its doctoral education.

At that time, VASS was blamed for taking on far too quite a few doctoral learners who experienced only a minimal ability for exploration. In 2016, community media in Vietnam revealed that there were about 350 PhD graduates from VASS, equivalent to nearly just one PhD graduate for each day. Meanwhile, from 2011 to 2015, nearly 1,000 entire-time scientists from VASS only published 22 WoS-indexed content.

These figures shocked the public and subsequently resulted in a scandal with VASS referred to as a ‘PhD incubator’ or ‘PhD hatching factory’. Because of to the scandal, the Ministry of Instruction and Teaching promulgated the 2017 regulation as part of an energy to strengthen the high-quality of doctoral schooling.

Influence of the aged regulation

The aged regulation resulted in two traits.

The very first craze was a reduce in the selection of newly enrolled PhD students in Vietnam due to the fact 2018. In accordance to the Ministry of Education and learning and Instruction, the range of newly enrolled PhD students in 2017 was 3,074. In 2018 the quantity dropped to 1,496 and in 2019 the determine continued to lessen to 903.

The 2nd development has been an increasing number of WoS/Scopus papers posted by Vietnamese students. According to the SCImago database, in 2017 Vietnamese scholars released 7,034 Scopus-indexed content articles. The respective figures in 2018, 2019 and 2020 ended up 9,182, 13,068 and 18,886.

On normal, the annual development charge of Scopus publications from Vietnam concerning 2017 and 2020 was 39%, which is amid the best charges of growth in the region. This advancement is not only noticed in difficult sciences but also in the social sciences.

Plan problem

The present-day discussion all-around the new regulation on doctoral instruction, as properly as the background to the 2017 1, indicates confusion in the Ministry of Training and Training’s eyesight about doctoral education and learning.

This confusion stems from the dilemma of balancing quantity and good quality investigation and of balancing domestically-oriented and internationally-oriented research. The trouble of owning also several PhD graduates with small high quality skills has been discovered as a continual issue for extra than a decade.

The 2017 regulation appeared to be an try by the Ministry of Instruction and Training to target on high quality and internationalisation. It is evident that the new Circular 18/2021 signifies a U-change.

Hiep Pham is an instructional investigate fellow. He is presently director of investigate at the Hanoi-based mostly Edlab Asia Centre for Instructional Analysis and Progress. He is also the director of STAR Scholars Vietnam. His investigate incorporates education renovation and scientometrics.