Industry engagement in professional higher education in Vietnam: “It’s our social responsibility”

Year: 2018

Author: Nguyen, Ha, Brown, Michael, Dakich, Eva

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The purpose of this paper is to explore the engagement of industry sector in professional higher education in Vietnam. This country has undergone multiple transitions which have been much reliant on human resources. At present, large numbers of students graduate each year in Vietnam, but many of them cannot secure a job. A skills mismatch and an inadequate level of job readiness are regarded as main drawbacks hindering the students’ entrance into the workplace. Higher education has been shouldered the blame because its mission is to produce job ready graduates meeting the demands of the labour market. This context is driving the implementation of profession-oriented higher education (so-called professional higher education) in which the industry engagement has been fostered towards a more effective professional development and career preparation for tertiary students. Such professional education is argued to provide a competitive and well-prepared labour force. This paper presents part of qualitative findings of an exploratory sequential mixed methods doctoral study with the title: “Utilizing work-based experiences of professionals in work integrated learning in Vietnamese universities”. The focus of this paper is to investigate the reasons why and what difficulties facing industry sector in engaging and interacting with students in both classroom and workplace contexts by conducting interviews with participants in Agriculture, Engineering and Hospitality fields. In detail, in-depth interviews with key stakeholders coming from university (department leaders and lecturers) as well as industry sector (firm leaders, professionals and graduates) and focus groups with last year students were carried out. The findings reveal not only the nature but also the motivations behind the engagement of industry representatives in professional higher education. This paper employs the concept of Community of Practice, the model of Community Participation and the model of Relationships of work-integrated learning stakeholders as theoretical framework. Although efforts have been made, challenges remain facing both higher education and industry sector to go beyond the boundaries of “social responsibilities” to collaborate towards equipping students with an adequate level of job readiness as well as provide them with early professional learning and development. This paper is expected to deepen understandings about current situation of university – industry interactions and contribute to professional higher education study in Vietnam. 
Key words: professional higher education, university-industry cooperation, workplace learning, job readiness, employability, Vietnam