Bridging the gap between Businesses and Universities

Minister of Education and Training Phung Xuan Nha had an interview with reporter on enterprise-invested school quality - a familiar but currently debatable issue.


Minister of Education and Training - Prof. Phung Xuan Nha delivering a speech and commenting on NHG's education system


* Reporter: Minister, the fact is that employers complain about a big gap between new graduates’ knowledge and application. Is the enterprise-invested school model able to narrow that gap?

- Minister Phung Xuan Nha: First of all, the primary condition to reduce that gap is capital - investment capital. Public sectors have their own limits, so we need it from private sectors, investors themselves.

There are two ways to unite industry with universities. In the past, the two sides endeavored to bond with each other by calls for support. This connection was good but not practical enough because the two parties got together without actually working together, for it was arranged by a third party and did not work out as in an arranged marriage. Therefore, that linkage was not real. 

There is today another way, in which the two sides really know how to perform together, persistently, not only in the training process but even at the beginning of curriculum development, jointly identifying specialties based on employment forecasts.

The most important thing is enterprises get involved from the inception rather than waiting until interviews. That is the mode of linking medical universities and hospitals. Or, in the case of Nguyen Hoang Group and Ba Ria-Vung Tau University, or some other universities in Ho Chi Minh City, they join hands with companies to design curricula. 

This way of collaboration is new. But when they know how to get along together, I believe this will, inevitably, bridge the divide, first of all, students’ incompetence, and particularly corporate understanding.

The economy will consequently enjoy higher productivity. This is also one of the priorities of the Ministry of Education and Training, to encourage socialization and universities to truly partner with commercial organizations. 

To encourage this, the Ministry will support and facilitate training processes to go in the right direction with quality publicized transparently with the aim of ensuring learners’ entitlement.

* Minister, but there have been failed schools that cause concern to learners and damage to investors themselves. So can it be said that business-invested schools are not necessarily a dominant model?

Like in other industries, there are also successful and unsuccessful people in education, although they might use the same way. It is due to different perceptions. Investors have their own choice of how to operate, how to use their method. That is theirs to choose. The ministry will have to protect both learners and educators.

The awareness factor in the partnership between industry and academia is vital. It is that education, in general, including tertiary one, is different from doing business. Results of education investment are not purely money or profit, but it is a process related to branding and positioning, thereby attracting qualified teachers and excellent learners. Success in education is skilled instructors and great students who build the brand and benefit the investors.

Understanding of university governance is also essential. Those who are unsuccessful in education investment are often voluntarists, imposing corporate characteristics upon college operations. This is clearly inappropriate, incompatible, resulting in reactions and failures.

The most important is respect for university governance. It is not like corporate management. Business administration is usually about projected targets, but that at college must focus on developing and fostering faculty to enhance quality. Of all, lecturers are of particular significance because they are directly involved in instruction, program design and access to the teacher market.

I have visited Ba Ria-Vung Tau University which reported to me that Nguyen Hoang Group has been approaching from this perspective, by encouraging and promoting the participation of teachers and beneficiaries to listen to their opinions and advice.

I find that successful businesses and corporations in education can only derive from quality, quality and quality. It must be that. Successful investors can sacrifice initial yields for pursuit of standard. This must be absorbed from managers to instructors and from students to faculty. That will build brands and there should be no substandard activities.




* So, what advice do you have for the industry-academia partnership model? 

That is motivation. More than anything else is the income of school stakeholders comprising teachers first of all, then management, staff, and even students with scholarships. Companies investing in education have this great advantage, namely, allowing students to practice and experience with authentic business, in their community. 


Or like Ba Ria-Vung Tau University, along with Nguyen Hoang Group, has managed to bring in a training program of an international transport association for their logistics students. This is very beneficial for students and employers later on. All have the motivation to stay and move forward.


Next is spirit, more specifically, respect. As I have seen in some places, teachers and students are treated like recipients granted money by corporations. This is not acceptable because it hurts them. We must consider teachers and students as contributors and companions to build brand quality, not just subservient to the owners.


For a broader view, investors must also pay attention to parents. They are the most important factors. They must get involved in academic work. I have seen private schools allowing students to conduct parent conferences like at United Kingdom Academy (UKA), Ba Ria City, where both students and parents discussed with teachers. That has been a positive new element applying entrepreneurs’ “customer-centered” experience.