, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 45–73 | Cite as

Key Problems in Organizing and Structuring University Research in Vietnam: The Lack of an Effective Research “Behaviour Formalization” System

  • Huong Thi Lan NguyenEmail author
  • Vincent Lynn Meek


Structure and organization seems to be at the root of many of the questions raised about institutional behaviour; however, with respect to research on university capacity building, few studies have examined research organizational problems, particularly in developing countries. This study investigates academic reactions to the structure and organization of research at four leading Vietnamese universities. Through document analysis and semi-structured interviews with 55 participants, the study finds that the four case-study Vietnamese universities have accomplished a number of the more visible tasks of research management such as creating research and research management positions; deciding primary organizational units for research delivery; creating a research office; and creating research oversight committees. However, they seem to neglect the other less visible tasks of organizing and structuring research such as developing rules for research integrity; developing a mechanism for evaluating the quality of research outcomes; preparing researchers and research managers for the necessary skills and knowledge; and deciding vertical and horizontal decentralization. The study concludes that even though research has been formally structured and organized, the management of research has not yet been professionalized. The key problem in organizing and structuring research is the lack of an effective system for research behaviour formalization. A more effective system for better formalizing research behaviours should be developed so that Vietnamese universities can integrate more successfully into the global research.


Research management Behaviour formalization Research evaluation Vietnam science and technology Organizing research Structuring research 


  1. Abate, T. 2004. What’s the verdict on peer review. Accessed April 12 2013.
  2. Adams, Jonathan. 2009. The use of bibliometrics to measure research quality in UK higher education institutions. Archivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis 57(1): 19–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Adler, Paul S., and Bryan Borys. 1996. Two Types of Bureaucracy: Enabling and Coercive. Administrative Science Quarterly 41(1): 61–89. doi: 10.2307/2393986.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Altbach, Philip Geoffrey. 2007. Peripheries and Centres: Research Universities in Developing Countries. Higher Education Management & Policy 19(2): 111–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Altbach, Philip G., and Jorge Balán. 2007. World class worldwide: transforming research universities in Asia and Latin America. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Altbach, Philip G., and Jamil Salmi. 2011. The Road to Academic Excellence: The Making of World-Class Research Universities. Washington: World Bank.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bazeley, Pat. 2010. Conceptualising research performance. Studies in Higher Education 35(8): 889–903. doi: 10.1080/03075070903348404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Benos, Dale J., Edlira Bashari, Jose M. Chaves, Amit Gaggar, Niren Kapoor, Martin LaFrance, Robert Mans, David Mayhew, Sara McGowan, and Abigail Polter. 2007. The ups and downs of peer review. Advances in Physiology Education 31(2): 145–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berg, Carin. 1995. Academy research institutes and universities. Higher Education in Europe 20(4): 157–160. doi: 10.1080/0379772950200428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Birx, Donald L., Elizabeth Anderson-Fletcher, and Elizabeth Whitney. 2013. Growing an emerging research university. Journal of Research Administration 44(1): 11–35.Google Scholar
  11. Bộ giáo dục và đào tạo. 2013. Số liệu thống kê GD&ĐT năm 2013 (Statistics in Education and Training in 2013). Accessed 05/09/2013.
  12. Bornmann, Lutz, and Hans-Dieter Daniel. 2005. Selection of research fellowship recipients by committee peer review. Reliability, fairness and predictive validity of Board of Trustees’ decisions. Scientometrics 63(2): 297–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bosch, Anita, and John Taylor. 2011. A proposed framework of institutional research development phases. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management 33(5): 443–457. doi: 10.1080/1360080x.2011.585742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Broadbent, K., C. Troup, and G. Strachan. 2013. Research staff in Australian universities: is there a career path? Labour and Industry: A Journal of the Social and Economic Relations of Work 23(3): 276–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bryman, Alan. 2004. Social research methods. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Ca, Tran Ngoc, and Nguyen Vo Hung. 2010. Vietnam: Current Debates on the Transformation of Academic Institutions. In Universities in Transition: The Changing role and Challenges for Academic Institutions, eds. Bo Göransson, and Claes Brundenius, 119–142. Singapore: Springer.Google Scholar
  17. Chính phủ. 2004. Công văn số 1269/CP-KG, ngày 6/9/2004 về việc tiếp tục hoàn thiện mạng lưới các trường đại học, cao đẳng (Document number 1269/CP-KG, dated 6/9/2004 on continuing to develop a complete national network of universities and colleges).Google Scholar
  18. Chubin, Daryl E., and Edward J. Hackett. 1990. Peerless science: Peer review and US science policy. New York: Suny Press.Google Scholar
  19. Committee on Assessing Integrity in Research Environments, National Research Council, and Institute of Medicine. 2002. Integrity in scientific research: creating an environment that promotes responsible conduct. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  20. Connell, Hellen. 2004. University research management: Meeting the institutional challenge. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  21. Dao, Khanh Van. 2014. Key challenges in the reform of governance, quality assurance, and finance in Vietnamese higher education—A case study. Studies in Higher Education 40(5): 745–760. doi: 10.1080/03075079.2013.842223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Edgar, Fiona, and Alan Geare. 2013. Factors influencing university research performance. Studies in Higher Education 38(5): 774–792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Frankel, Mark S., and Jane Cave. 1997. Evaluating science and scientists: An east-west dialogue on research evaluation in post-communist Europe. Budapest: Central European University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Ha, Thanh. 2009. 400 triệu USD xây dựng bốn trường ĐH “trình độ quốc tế” (400 million USD for building four world-class universities).Google Scholar
  25. Hansson, F. 2008. Research leadership as entrepreneurial organizing for research. Higher Education 55(6): 651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Harris, Michael. 2010. Interdisciplinary strategy and collaboration: A case study of American research universities. Journal of Research Administration 41(1): 22–34.Google Scholar
  27. Hien, P.D. 2010. A comparative study of research capabilities of East Asian countries and implications for Vietnam. Higher Education 60(6): 615–625.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kirkland, John. 2008. University research management: An emerging profession in the developing world. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management 20(6): 717–726.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Liu, Nian Cai, Qi Wang, and Ying Cheng. 2011. Paths to a world-class university: Lessons from practices and experiences. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ly, Pham Thi. 2013. Case study: the effectiveness of research and innovation management at policy and institutional levels in Vietnam. In Effectiveness of research and innovation management at policy and institutional levels: Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, eds. Åsa Olsson, and Lynn Meek, 140–162. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  31. Marginson, Simon. 2014. University Rankings and Social Science. European Journal of Education 49(1): 45–59. doi: 10.1111/ejed.12061.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McNay, I. 2010. Research quality assessment. In International Encyclopedia of Education, eds. Penelope Peterson, Eva Baker, and Barry McGaw. Oxford: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  33. Meek, V. Lynn, and Dianne Davies. 2009. Policy Dynamics in Higher Education and Research: Concepts and Observations. In Higher Education, Research, and Innovation: Changing Dynamics—Report on the UNESCO Forum on Higher Education, Research and Knowledge 2001–2009, eds. V. Lynn Meek, Ulrich Teichler, and Mary Louise Kearney, 41–82. Kassel: International Centre for Higher Education Research Kassel.Google Scholar
  34. Mintzberg, H. 1973. The nature of managerial work. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  35. Mintzberg, Henry. 1979. The structuring of organizations: A synthesis of the research. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  36. Moed, Henk F., W.J.M. Burger, J.G. Frankfort, and Anthony F.J. Van Raan. 1985. The use of bibliometric data for the measurement of university research performance. Research Policy 14(3): 131–149. doi: 10.1016/0048-7333(85)90012-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. National Academy of Sciences. 1995. On being a scientist: Responsible conduct in research. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  38. Ngo, Mai Tuyet. 2014. A quest for a new model of public university governance that promotes incentives for academic excellence for modern Vietnam: Lessons from multi-site comparative case studies in East Asia. PhD thesis, Faculty of Arts & Social Science, The University of New South Wales.Google Scholar
  39. Nguyễn, Hương Thi Lan. 2014. Research in universities. In Higher education in Vietnam: flexibility, mobility and practicality in the global knowledge economy, eds. Lý Trần, Simon Marginson, Hoàng Đỗ, Quyên Đỗ, Trúc Lê, Nhài Nguyễn, Thảo Vũ, Thạch Phạm, and Hương Nguyễn. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  40. Nguyen, Thi Lan Huong. 2013a. Building university research capacity in Vietnam: Prospects, problems, and possibilities. PhD thesis, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne.Google Scholar
  41. Nguyen, Thi Lan Huong. 2013b. The challenges of developing research resources at leading Vietnamese universities. Higher Education Management and Policy 24(2): 115–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nguyen, Thi Lan Huong. 2013c. Middle-level academic management: A case study on the roles of the heads of department at a Vietnamese university. Tertiary Education and Management 19(1): 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Nguyen, Thi Lan Huong. 2015. Building human resources management capacity for university research: The case at four leading Vietnamese universities. Higher Education. doi: 10.1007/s10734-015-9898-2.Google Scholar
  44. Nguyen, Tuan V., and Ly T. Pham. 2011. Scientific output and its relationship to knowledge economy: an analysis of ASEAN countries. Scientometrics 89(1): 107–117. doi: 10.1007/s11192-011-0446-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nguyen, Thi Lan Huong, and Vincent Lynn Meek. 2015. Key considerations in organizing and structuring university research. The Journal of Research Administration 46(1): 41–62.Google Scholar
  46. OECD. 1996. The Knowledge-based economy. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  47. OECD. 2005. University research management: Developing research in new institutions. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  48. Olsson, Åsa, and Lynn Meek (eds.). 2013. Effectiveness of research and innovation management at policy and institutional levels: Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  49. Paul, R.J. 2008. Measuring research quality: the United Kingdom Government’s Research Assessment Exercise. European Journal of Information Systems 17(4): 324–329. doi: 10.1057/ejis.2008.31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pettigrew, Alan, Molly Lee, Lynn Meek, and Fabiana Barros de Barros. 2013. A typology of knowledge and skills requirements for effective research and innovation management. In Effectiveness of research and innovation management at policy and institutional levels: Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, eds. Åsa Olsson, and Lynn Meek, 29–74. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  51. Quốc hội. 2010. Luật Viên chức, luật số 58/2010/QH12, ban hành ngày 15/11/2010 (Law for employees working in state-owned organizations, rule number 58/2010/QH12, issued on 15/11/2010).Google Scholar
  52. Quốc hội. 2012. Luật Giáo dục Đại học, số hiệu 08/2012/QH13, ban hành ngày 18/6/2012 (Higher Education Law, rule number 08/2012/QH13, issued on 18/6/2012).Google Scholar
  53. Salmi, Jamil. 2009. The challenge of establishing world-class universities. Washington, DC: World Bank.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schermerhorn, J.R., P. Davidson, D. Poole, A. Simon, P. Woods, and S.L. Chau. 2011. Management: foundations and applications (Australian edition). Milton, QLD: Wiley.Google Scholar
  55. Steneck, Nicholas H. 2007. ORI introduction to the responsible conduct of research. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  56. Taylor, John. 2006. Managing the unmanageable: The management of research in research-intensive universities. Higher Education Management & Policy 18(2): 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Taylor, Jim. 2011. The assessment of research quality in UK universities: Peer review or metrics? British Journal of Management 22(2): 202–217. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8551.2010.00722.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Thoenig, Jean-Claude, and Catherine Paradeise. 2014. Organizational governance and the production of academic quality: Lessons from two top U.S. research universities. Minerva 52(4): 381–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Thủ tướng chính phủ. 2007. Quyết định số 121/2007/QĐ-TTg của Thủ tướng Chính phủ phê duyệt quy hoạch mạng lưới các trường đại học và cao đẳng giai đoạn 2006—2020 (Decision number 121/2007/QĐ-TTg of the Prime Minister approving the plan for developing the national network of universities and colleges for the period 2006–2020). The Vietnamese Government.Google Scholar
  60. Thủ tướng Chính phủ. 2010. Quyết định số 58/2010/QĐ-TTg, 22/9/2010, Điều lệ trường đại học (Decision number 58/2010/QĐ-TTg, 22/9/2010, University Regulations), ed. Goverment Office. Vietnam: 58/2010/QĐ-TTg.Google Scholar
  61. Thủ tướng Chính phủ. 2011. Quyết định Phê duyệt Đề án hội nhập quốc tế về khoa học và công nghệ đến năm 2020, số 735/QĐ-TTg, ngày 18/5/2011 (Decision on approving the project of international integration in science and technology to 2020, decision number 735/QĐ-TTg, issued on 18/5/2011).Google Scholar
  62. Thủ tướng Chính phủ. 2014a. Công văn số 821/TTg-KGVX V/v chủ trương đầu tư Dự án thành lập Trường Đại học Fulbright Việt Nam tại Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, ngày 03/06/2014 (Document numbered 821/TTg-KGVX to approve in principle the establishment of Fulbright University Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh city, dated 03/06/2014).Google Scholar
  63. Thủ tướng Chính phủ. 2014b. Quyết định về việc thành lập Trường Đại học Việt Nhật thuộc Đại học Quốc Gia Hà nội số 1186/QĐ-TTg ngày 21/07/2014 (Decision to establish Vietnamese - Japanese university which belongs to Vietnam National University, Hanoi, decision number 1186/QĐ-TTg dated 21/07/2014).Google Scholar
  64. Tran, Thi Tuyet. 2014. Governance in higher education in Vietnam—a move towards decentralization and its practical problems. Journal of Asian Public Policy 7(1): 71–82. doi: 10.1080/17516234.2013.873341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. UN Millennium Project. 2003. Background paper of the task force on science, technology and innovation.Google Scholar
  66. Woelert, Peter. 2015. Governing Knowledge: The Formalization Dilemma in the Governance of the Public Sciences. Minerva 53(1): 1–19. doi: 10.1007/s11024-015-9266-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. World Bank. 1998/99. Knowledge for development. World Development Report. Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  68. Yin, R.K. 2009. Case study research: Design and methods, 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swinburne Business SchoolSwinburne University of TechnologyHawthornAustralia
  2. 2.Melbourne CSHEThe University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

Personalised recommendations