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Nguyen, T. L. H. (2013). The challenges of developing research resources for leading Vietnamese universities. Higher Education Management and Policy, 24(2), 115-130.

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Nguyen, T. L. H. (2013). The challenges of developing research resources for leading Vietnamese universities. Higher Education Management and Policy, 24(2), 115-130.

Abstract

This paper examines the challenges of developing research resources for leading Vietnamese universities. The first part of the paper presents the background to the study, including literature review on the challenges to research resources development, and describes the research questions and research methods. The next part provides empirical findings on types of research resources, availability of resources, and challenges for resources development at leading Vietnamese universities. In the final part, the paper discusses the major findings and provides suggestions for further analysis on Vietnam’s university research sector.
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Given the importance of research communities and research mentoring activities in developing research skills, universities around the world have paid special attention to improving these two dimensions. However, developing research communities and research mentoring culture in Vietnamese universities largely remain at a nascent stage because these universities often have a short history of conducting research and limited research capacity. Drawing on a sociocultural perspective, this qualitative case study explores the experience of Vietnamese scholars in developing their research skills via their research communities and their perspectives towards domestic and international research communities. Interview data show that participants were active in establishing their own networks and tended to look outward, searching for support from international communities and mentors, since their institutes lacked collegiality and research collaborations. To develop institutional research communities and positive research culture, universities’ managers should consider factors including collective values, researcher individualism, and research traditions.
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Despite being accepted as a key function in research management, research planning seems to be a neglected practice in some higher education institutions, particularly in economically disadvantaged countries such as Vietnam. This paper addresses a research gap in this area by examining (1) the practices of research planning at four leading Vietnamese universities and (2) the extent to which research planning is undertaken. Through 55 semi-structured interviews with university participants, the study found that despite having goals to be research leaders in the country, the four Vietnamese universities pursue a compliance-based rather than a strategic-based approach to research planning. Based on a framework for measuring strategic research planning, this study proposes strategies and processes to enhance such planning capacity, which may improve research performance.
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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.
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At research-intensive universities, building human resources management (HRM) capacity has become a key approach to enhancing a university’s research performance. However, despite aspiring to become a research-intensive university, many teaching-intensive universities in developing countries may not have created effective research-promoted HRM policies. This study investigates the extent to which four leading universities in Vietnam have motivated their academics to improve research performance. By analysing policy documents and 55 semi-structured interviews with university leaders, managers and academics, the study found that compared to the “ideal” research-enhanced HRM policies employed by research-intensive universities, the four case study Vietnamese universities have shown their recognition of academic research; however, their HRM policies are not powerful enough to encourage academics to do research to the best of their potential. In realizing their vision of becoming research-oriented universities, the four Vietnamese universities should employ a long term HRM capacity-building strategy by providing stronger remuneration packages for academics, applying explicit indicators in assessing lecturers’ research performance; and building a comprehensive staff development agenda for research team building. However, for the four universities to implement these recommendations, changes must also be made at the system level. The Vietnamese government must allocate more research funding and confer a higher level of autonomy to universities so that they can implement their desired HRM policies to accelerate institutional research capacity and performance.
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