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Higher Education Eccreditation – Situation in Vietnam and the United States’ and Japan’s Experience

1. Prior to 1999 in Vietnam there was neither scientific research nor publication on criteria as well as reliable and valid tools which can help to assure the quality of training and can be used in evaluating and accrediting the higher education quality.

In 1999, the Center for Education Quality Assurance and Research Development of VNU-H (CEQARD) was given the task to do a State level’s research on accreditation in higher education. In March 2002 the research titled “Research on setting up the batteries of criteria to use in accreditation of Vietnamese higher education institutions” had been completed. It had been evaluated officially by the State Scientific Committee. The result of the research is a battery of criteria for evaluating the quality and the conditions to assure the quality of training in a higher education institution. This battery has 26 criteria in 8 areas of activities of higher education institution. The State Scientific Committee had approved the result of the research and requested the Government to allow to use it for accrediting purposes.

In 2002, MOET established the Office of Accreditation which is a unit in the MOET’s Higher Education Department. It is the first unit responsible for the matter of accreditation ever established at MOET.

In 2003, MOET upgraded the Office of Accreditation and turned it to the General Department of Assessment and Accreditation (GDAA). The experts of the GDAA set to work on the draft of Provisional Regulations on Accreditation of Higher Education Institutions. The result of the State level’s research on accreditation was studied and applied.

On 2nd December 2004 the Minister of Education and Training promulgated the Provisional Regulations on Accreditation of Higher Education Institutions. Under those regulations ten standards for accreditation of higher education institutions were set up. They are in ten areas. Each standard has certain criteria:


Areas of Standards


of criteria


Mission and goals of higher education institution



Organization and management






Training activities



Managing cadres, faculty and staff






Research and development of technology



International cooperation activities



Library, learning equipments and other facilities



Finance and financial management


The following is description of the standard No1:

Mission of the institution is clearly defined, appropriate to its functions, tasks and resources so as it can meet the needs of human resources of the locality and the country. Educational goals must be revised, evaluated in the aspect of appropriateness to practice so as they can be timely supplemented and adjusted.

This standard includes two criteria: 1) Mission of the institution is clearly defined, appropriate to its functions, resources and development orientation; appropriate to and closely connected with the socio-economic development strategy of the locality and the whole country; 2) Goals of the institution are periodically revised, supplemented, adjusted and thoroughly grasped and implemented by faculty and staff.

It is clear that the criteria are detalization of the standard. This is common for all 10 standards in the Provisional Regulations.

As accreditation is a new measure of quality assurance ever applied in Vietnam, in the Provisional Regulations on accreditation MOET gave two levels for each criterion so as institution can easily reach at least the first level. It can be considered the psychological solution to introduce accreditation into the higher education life in Vietnam’s conditions. Thus, we can find, for example, the first level in the first criterion of standard No1 as follows: Mission of the institution is defined in oficial documents with the clear content, and approriate to the resources and development orientation of the institution. The second level of this criterion is Mission of the institution is appropriate to and closely connected with the socio-economic development strategy of the locality and the whole country.

The Provisional Regulations also stipulated the process of accreditation including three stages. They are institution’s self-evaluation, external evaluation and approval.

The organization which helps the Minister of Education and Training to direct and carry out accreditation is the Council of Higher Education Accreditation. President of the Council is the Minister or Vice-Minister delegated by the Minister. Standing Vice-President of the Council is Director of GDAA.

The purpose of accreditation in these Provisional Regulations is determined as checking the level of meeting training goals that an institution stated in a particular period.

Higher education institutions accredited by the Council of Higher Education Accreditation are given priority in allocation of funds stipulating enhancement of quality and in approval upon their training programs joined with domestic and overseas institutions.

In 2005, on a voluntary basis MOET decided to choose ten of institutions for accreditation. They are: 1) College of Social Sciences and Humanity, Vietnam National University, Hanoi; 2) National Economic University; 3) Maritime University; 4) College of Industrial Engineering, Thai Nguyen University; 5) Vinh University; 6) College of Technology, Da Nang University; 7) Can Tho University; 8) Da Lat University; 9) Ho Chi Minh City Technical Teacher Training University; and 10) College of Technology, Ho Chi Minh City National University.

To support those institutions in implementing the plan, MOET provided each institution with $US 3,000. The amount is not big, however, is meaningful for encouraging the institutions in the matter.

On March 2005, GDAA organized a workshop on self-evaluation for experts of those institutions, and since then they had had 6 months for preparing self-evaluation reports. A common fact has been realized: they were puzzled in finding evidence for description of achievement, determining shortcomings and solutions to overcome them. During the period of writing reports by institutions, MOET four times sent consultants from the CEQARD of VNU-H and the Center for Assessment and Evaluation of Training Quality (CAETQ) of VNU-HCM to those institutions to help them in this matter, each time lasted 3 days. By the end of 2005 all those institutions have submitted their reports to MOET. At present, MOET is preparing the process of external evaluation for the first 10 higher education institutions. In the history of higher education in Vietnam this is the first time accreditation is implemented. The workshops and the process of self-evaluation helped administrators of higher education institutions and their staff very much in acquiring the advanced style of management. The so called “culture of quality assurance” is begining to take shape in universities and colleges.

In 2006, MOET chose the second group of ten institutions to accredit. They are: 1) Hanoi University of Education; 2) Ho Chi Minh City University of Education; 3) College of Education, Hue University; 4) University of Agriculture No1; 5) Ho Chi Minh City University of Agriculture and Forestry; 6) University of Fisheries; 7) Foreign Trade University; 8) University of Commerce; 9) Van Lang University; 10) Hai phong University.

After workshops for experts from those institutions in February, these days with the assistance of the consultants from CEQARD of VNU-H and CAETQ of VNU-HCM they are writing their self-evaluation reports.

In higher education accreditation, VNU-H has a special status. The institution itself holds a special position in Vietnam’s higher education system, operating according to a special regulation promulgated by the Prime Minister. It is the largest comprehensive higher education and research center in Vietnam. One of the missions of VNU-H is to produce a contingent of highly qualified scientists, educators and technologists and to develop highly qualified human resources and talent for the country. VNU-H strives to be the nation’s leading and most prestigious institution of excellence for undergraduate and graduate training, scientific research and technology and equally compared with leading institutions in the region, as well as in the world. The mission of VNU-H is also participating in the development of national policies and strategies on education, training, science and technology.

As mentioned above, CEQARD of VNU-H was the initiator to do the State level’s research on accreditation in higher education. When the Ministry of Education and Training launched the pilot plan to carry out the process of accreditation in Vietnam, CEQARD was involved in organization of workshops for experts from the institutions that have been chosen to be evaluated. It also helps the Ministry in organizing groups of consultants and sending them to the universities to assist those institutions in writing self-evaluation reports.

VNU-H is carrying out its own plan of accreditation. On 3rd June 2005 the President of VNU-H promulgated the Provisional Regulations on Accreditation in VNU-H. These regulations have the same standards and the number of criteria as in the MOET’s Regulations. However, differently from the MOET’s Regulations, each criteria has four levels. The first and the second levels are the same as in the MOET’s Regulations. The third criteria is orientated to the standard of leading universities in the region, and the fourth one – to the standard of leading universities in the world.

In 2006, VNU-H chose three constituent units to accredit: College of Social Sciences and Humanities, College of Foreign Languages, and Faculty of Economics. These days those colleges and faculty are preparing their self-evaluation reports with the help of the consultants from CEQARD.

2. In the United States, higher education institutions consider accreditation as a primary means of assuring and improving quality. It is more than 100 years old, emerging from concerns to protect public health and safety and to serve the public interest.

Accreditation in this country is carried out by private, non-profit organizations. External quality review of higher education is a non-governmental enterprise.

The U.S. accreditation structure is as decentralized and complex as American higher education system itself. The higher education accreditation is implemented among approximately 6,500 accredited degree-granting and non-degree-granting institutions. These institutions may be public or private, two- or four-year, nonprofit or for-profit. They spend approximately $230 billion per year, enroll more than 15 million credit students and employ approximately 2.7 million full- and part-time people.

There are three types of accreditation: regional, national, and program, professional or specialized.

Regional accreditation is the most common type of institutional accreditation among postsecondary academic institutions in the US. At present 6 regional accrediting associations are in operation: 1) Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, 2) New England Association of Schools and Colleges, 3) North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, 4) Northwest Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities, 5) Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and 6) Western Association of Schools and Colleges. They are nonprofit, nongovernmental bodies organized by geographic regions. They accredit institutions according to the level of education offered by the institution: a) elementary and secondary schools, b) vocational / technical institutions, c) two-year instituions / junior colleges / community colleges, d) four-year institutions (offering the bachelor’s degree as the highest degree), and e) research or doctoral instituions (offering the doctoral degree as the highest degree). In 2003 there are 2,963 regionally accredited institutions (Council for Higher Education Accreditation; Fact Sheet #1; Profile of Accreditation, August 2003).

Each regional accrediting organization defines its own standards, based on the state of the higher education community and government activities through the Higher Education Act. Middle States Association has 14 standards, New England Association - 11, North Central Association - 5, Northwest Association – 9, Southern Association – 9, and Western Association – 4. Although those Associations have different standards for accreditation, the following ones are common to all of the regional accreditors:

An institutions must:

· have a stated mission and purpose that are appropriate to higher education;

· have stated goals that are based on the institutional mission and purpose;

· have clearly-defined, functioning systems and resources-fiscal, organizational, and academic – that support the mission and goals and enable them to be realized;

· have a system of continous evaluation of progress toward the status mission and goals, and of planning for future progress.

There are 6 steps of the accreditation process:

1. Self-assessment according to the standards of the accrediting organization. The institution works with the accrediting organization to conduct a self-study and writes a report documenting how it meets the accrediting standards. If the institution is applying for initial accreditation, during this period the instituion is be called a “candidate” for accreditation.

2. Peer review: A team reviews the self-assessment. The team is ussually made up of practicing educators and administrators at other higher education institutions, and may also include other members. Team members ussually work on a volunteer basis; they do not get paid.

3. Site visit based on self-assessment: The team visits the institution as a follow-up to the review of the self-assessment. The visit may include talks with administrators, instructors and students. A site visit is ussually required for continuing accreditation as well as for the initial accreditation process.

4. Review of the team’s recommendations and follow-up: After the site visit, the team may work with the institution on any areas that need clarification, additional work, or follow-up.

5. Accreditation organization’s decision: the accrediting association makes a decision about the instituion’s status – approval of initial accreditation, reafirmation of existing standards; denial of initial accreditation or revocation of continuing accreditation to an institution that has been on probation – and may make recommendations for further improvement or development.

6. Ongoing review, based on the accrediting organization’s timeline for accreditation review. The review process is ussually repeated every five years.

National accreditation refers to accrediting bodies that review and accredit specialized or special-interest institutions across the entire United States.

The following are Council for Higher Education Accreditation-Approved National Accreditors: 1) Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, 2) Association for Biblical Higher Education Commission on Accreditation, 3) Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Taimudic Schools, 4) Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, 5) Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools Accreditation Commission.

National accreditation has nothing to do with government activity. Institutions with national accreditation generally will recognize degrees/credits from other similar institutions that are recognized by the same accrediting organization. Sometimes nationally-accredited institutions are also regionally-accredited, but generally they are not. Regionally-accredited institutions generally will only accept degrees/credits from other regionally-accredited institutions.

Program, professional or specialized accreditation is available for specific programs of study within an institution. The accreditation review process focuses on just one department, program or curriculum. The following are some programs or professional accreditors: 1) Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, 2) American Association to Advanced Collegiate Schools of Business, 3) American Library Association for library science, 4) American Psychological Association, 5) Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, and 6) Natioanl Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

In some professions, a degree from an “accredited program” is required to be eligible to be licensed or certified to practice the profession.

An institution that is “regionally accredited” might offer several “accredited programs”, for example, a small institution, Alveeno College, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (2,000 students). It is a suburban private institution, regionally-accredited by North Central Association. It offers bachelor’s degrees in arts and sciences, music, nursing education, business communication, and master’s degrees in education. Its programs are accredited by 6 accreditors. Another example: Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. It is a large institution (57,500 students), an urban public comprehensive university with programs through the doctoral level. It is regionally-accredited by North Central Association. The list of programs of study and their accreditation is 9 Web pages long.

The purposes of accreditation in the United States are as follow:

1. Assuring quality. Accreditation is the primary means by which colleges, universities and programs assure quality to students and the public. Accredited status is a signal to students and the public that an instituion or program meets at least minimal standards for its faculty, curriculum, student services and libraries. Accredited status is conveyed only if instituions and programs provide evidence of fiscal stability.

2. Access to federal funds. Accreditation is required for access to federal funds such as student aid and other federal programs. The federal government and accreditors sustain a cooperative relationship whereby government relies on accreditors to confirm the quality of institutions and programs in which students enroll using federal student aid funds. Federal student aid funds are available to students only if the institution they are attending is accredited by a recognized accrediting organization.The United States awarded $60 billion in student grants and loans in 1997-98 (Judith S. Eaton).

3. Easing transfer. Accreditation is important to students for a smooth transfer of courses and programs among colleges, universities and programs. Receiving institutions take note of whether or not the credits a students wishes to transfer have been earned at an accredited institution. Although accreditation is but one among several factors taken into account by receiving institutions, it is viewed carefully and is considered an important indicator of quality.

4. Engendering employer confidence. Accreditation status of an institution or program is important to employers when evaluating credentials of job applicants and when deciding wheter to provide tuition support for current employees seeking additional education.

Accreditors must be recognized. Recognition is carried out by another private organization, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA, a national coodinating body for national, regional and specialized accreditation), or the United States Department of Education (USDE). Although accreditation is strictly a non-governmental activity, recognition is not.

As of 1998-99, nineteen (19) institutional accrediting organizations are or have been recognized by either CHEA or the USDE or both. These organizations accredit more than 6,500 institutions. Sixty-one (61) specialized accrediting organizations are or have been recognized and accredit more than 20,000 programs.

CHEA has five recognition standards by which it reviews accrediting organizations for recognition. The standards place primary emphasis on academic quality assurance and improvement for an institution or program. They require accreditors to advance academic quality, demonstrate accountability, encourage purposeful change and needed improvement, employ appropriate and fair procedures in decision-making and continually reassess accreditation practices.

CHEA accreditors are normally reviewed on a ten-year cycle with a five-year interim report. The review is carried out by the CHEA Committee on Recognition, a group of institutional representatives, accreditors and public members who scrutinize accreditors for their eligibility for CHEA recognition and review accreditors based on accreditor’s self-study. The review may also include a site visit. The Committee on Recognition makes recommendations to the CHEA governing board to affirm or deny recognition to an accreditor.

The USDE recognition standards place primary emphasis on whether an institution or program is of sufficient quality to be qualified for federal funds for student financial aid and other federal programs. These standards require accreditors to maintain criteria or standards in specific areas: student achievement, curricula, faculty, facilities (includes equipment and supplies), fiscal and administrative capacity, student support services, recruiting and admissions practices, measures of the degree and objectives of degrees or credentials offered, record of student complaints and record of compliance with program responsibilities for student aid.

USDE recognition review normally takes place every five years. USDE staff conduct the review based on communication with the accreditor, a written report from the accreditor and, from time to time, a visit to the accreditor. USDE staff make recommendations to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), an appointed group of educators and public members, to recognize or not recognize an accrediting organization. The committee, in turn, recommends action to the U.S. Secretary of Education.

USDE and CHEA recognize many of the same accediting organizations, but not all. Accreditors seek USDE or CHEA recognition for different reasons: USDE recognition is required for accreditors whose institutions or programs seek eligibility for federal student aid funds. CHEA recognition confers an academic legitimacy on an accrediting organizations, helping to solidify the place of these organizations and their institutions and programss in the national higher education community.

3. In Japan accreditation was introduced into higher education life relatively early. In 1947 Japan University Accreditation Association (JUAA) was founded by 46 universities. The purpose of foundation of this organization was enhancing the quality of higher education by self-improving efforts and mutual cooperation of its members. A university seeking the membership must apply for the Association’s accreditation and be accredited. Every seven years member universities are required to be reaccredited. The Association now consists of 322 institutitons including 41 national, 28 public and 253 private universities. The total number amounts to about 45 percent of all the universities in Japan.

Up to 2004 JUAA had long been recognized as the sole organization for evaluation and accreditation of universities in Japan.

The Ministry of Education approves establishment of university. Laws and regulations prescribed detailed standards and criteria for the granting of approval. Thus, the minimum standards of the quality of universities were secured through the approval granting process implemented by the Ministry of Education.

By law, universities were requested to conduct self-study of its operations and make the results public. However, law did not say that universities must undergo evaluation by external agency.

After being approved many universities have voluntarily applied to JUAA for membership in order to improve the training quality through mutual cooperation. The Association created its own standards, criteria and procedures of its evaluation and accreditation. Universities themselves decide whether or not to join JUAA and go through its periodical evaluation and accreditation process. JUAA carried out its functions on the basis of voluntary cooperation of the member-universities. The Government was not involved at all in the Association’s activities.

In 2000 the Ministry of Education launched its own system of evaluation of educational and research programs of national universities. It established its own agency, National Institute for Academic Degrees and University Evaluation (NIAD-UE), and requested all nationall universities to go through evaluation by this agency. Even national universities-JUAA’s members have been forced to apply for the accreditation by the Institute.

In 2002, the Central Council for Education recommended the Minister of Education setting up a new total quality assurance system including a continual third-party evaluation. In response to the recommendation, the School Education Law was amended, and a continual third-party evaluation system was introduced. The law’s amendments, which took effect on April 1, 2004 have brought about a radical change in the quality assurance system.

Under the revised law, all universities have to go through evaluation every seven years by an external agency certified by the Ministry of Education. By the law the Ministry of Education has the power to certify the evaluation agency. The law stipulates several requirements for the certification, one of which says that a would-be certified agency shall have established the criteria and methodology by which it can perform the evaluation fairly and properly.

The Ministry of Education has not only the power to certify, but also holds the certified agencies under its control. Under the law, a certified agency must report to the Ministry on the results of its evaluation of each university and must keep the the Ministry informed of the changes made to its criteria and methodology of evaluation. The Ministry is authorized to request the agency to submit reports with relevant documents on its evaluation activities, and when it finds impropriety or unlawfulness in the activities, it may direct the agency to make necessary improvements. The Ministry can revoke its certification in case of serious failures on the part of the agency.

The law anticipates that multiple bodies will be certified as evaluation agencies regardless of the type of bodies to be certified. JUAA, an experienced agency, and NIAD-UE, reorganized and was made an independent administrative corporation, were certified with the same requirements. At present NIAD-UE has policy to cover evaluation of not only national universities but also public and private universities. One predict that in the near future there will be other entries. It is reported that an association of private universities plans to launch its certified evaluation. It is also predicted that under the law a for-profit corporation engaged in business other than education or even foreign accreditation organization can be a certified agency if it satisfies the conditions and requirements of the law.

4. Concluding remarks

The information given above can be summarized and generalized as follows:

1. As many countries in the world, Vietnam considers accreditation as a necessary means of assuring and improving quality. In accreditation issue Vietnam’s higher education is being integrated into the world’s higher education;

2. Vietnam has earned much experience from developed countries, especially from the US’ higher education, in setting up philosophy of accreditation, the standards of accreditation and the methodology of carrying out the process of accreditation;

3. Studying experience of higher education of developed countries, Vietnam has created its own way to implement accreditation: The US’ accreditation is decentralized and is carried out by private, non-profit agencies. Universities and colleges voluntarily paticipate in accreditation. The Japan’s accreditation had been started by a voluntary association of universities and then developed into centralization with the power in the Ministry of Education. All universities are under the legal obligation to go through evaluation. In Vietnam the Government has taken the initiative in accreditation and holds the power in this matter. Initially accreditation is based on voluntary request of higher education institutions, but step by step all universities and colleges will be under obligation to be accredited.


1. Ngo Doan Dai; A Situation Analysis of Higher Education in Vietnam (Research report presented at the Regional Seminar on Situation Analysis of Higher Education in Southeast Asian Countries held by UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Education Bangkok, UNESCO Office in Vietnam, SEAMEO Regional Center for Higher education and Development, and Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training in Hanoi, 28-29 July 2005)

2. Judith S. Eaton; President, Council for Higher Education Accreditation; An Overview of U.S. Accreditation (

3. Ann M. Koenig, AACRAO (USA), Rolf Lofstad, NOKUT (Norway), Eric Staab, Grinnel College (USA); Higher Education Accreditation in the United States; Higher Education Accreditation in the United States EAIE Conference – Torino, 18 September 2004

4. Hiroshi Hokama (Chuo University, Japan); Transformation of Quality Assurance System of Higher Education in Japan (Presentation at the International Conference, May 27-28, 2005, Athens)

5. Jun Oba (Research Institute for Higher Education, Hirosima University, Japan); Higher Education in Japan (Paper prepared for seminars on higher education, held at Bogazici University on 3rd February 2005 in Istanbul, and at the Ministry of National Education on 4th February 2005 in Ankara, Turkey)

6. Tran Thi Bich Lieu; Chat luong giao duc dai hoc va dam bao chat luong giao duc dai hoc o My (Paper for conference on higher education quality assurance in HCM City, 2006)

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ngo Doan Dai
Vietnam National University, Hanoi
Photos by Bui Tuan [100 Years-VietNam National University,HaNoi]
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