Market forces are working against university degrees in Marx, Lenin and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, where the Communist government has resorted to offering free tuition to attract students.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has signed a decree giving free tuition to students agreeing to take four-year courses on Marxism-Leninism and the thoughts of Ho Chi Minh, the country’s revolutionary hero, at state-run universities.
Students have been shunning such degrees because employers are not interested in it, said Pham Tan Ha, head of admission and training at Ho Chi Minh City Social and Human Sciences University. Degrees in subjects like communications, tourism, international relations and English are more popular because students believe “they will have better chances of employment and better pay when they graduate,” he said.
Students who study certain medical specialities such as tuberculosis and leprosy also will get a free ride. Ordinarily they would have to pay the equivalent of about £130 a year.
Currently, all Vietnamese students must take at least three classes in Marxist-Leninism and Ho Chi Minh studies, but few go beyond that.
Vietnam is run by a Communist regime but embraced free-market reforms in the 1980s. These days, the country’s past is mostly apparent in its large and inefficient state-owned sector, a repressive state apparatus, the occasional Soviet-era statue or building and lingering alliances with other leftist countries.
More than 60 per cent of the country’s 90 million people are under 30, a demographic sweet spot that can lead to fast economic growth in developing countries. Competition for well-paying jobs is intense among the around 500,000 graduates who enter the job market each year.
Duong Van Quang, a second-year student at the Hanoi University of Pharmacy, said students wanting to join the government bureaucracy, especially in rural areas, were the most likely to take a degree in Marxist-Lenin philosophy. He felt it unfair that they should get a free education, regardless of the subject.
Phan Thi Trang, another pharmaceuticals student, said of the subjects: “They are just not applicable to my daily life.”