Transnational education in Vietnam: linking critical success factors to stakeholder needs & expectations.

JurisdictionEuropean Union
AuthorVinen, Denis G.
Date22 December 2011

    The Master of International Accounting (MIntA) is a transnational program jointly conducted in Vietnam by the Australian based Swinburne University of Technology (SUT) and the Vietnamese based National Economics University (NEU). The program which began in November 1998 is offered to participants in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It is a three year part time course comprising twelve subjects and to be eligible for enrolment students must possess both a Vietnamese undergraduate qualification and a satisfactory proficiency in English as the program is taught in English and accompanied by English written teaching materials. (MIntA Brochure, 1998).

    The learning model for the MIntA program is based around program materials developed by SUT academics which are delivered in two phases. Firstly, SUT academic staff deliver lectures for each subject face-to-face in intensive block mode over five mid-week evenings and on Saturday for a total of twenty hours. The lectures are supplemented by a specifically prepared subject manual, a prescribed textbook and a video CD tailored to cover the main issues and requirements associated with each subject. Secondly, NEU academic staff provide three hour weekly tutorials over a period of five weeks covering assignment completion, exam preparation and tutorial problems as prescribed in the subject manual.


    The research problem addressed in a recent case study by the author was to identify and evaluate the relative importance of factors that contribute to the sustainability of an offshore business education program in Vietnam. The research investigated stakeholders involved in the MIntA program and a number of staff, students and employers were interviewed.

    This paper reports on a key segment of that study. Specifically, it reports on the expectations, needs and perceptions of SUT academic staff who have taught in the MIntA program. The study was significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, the teaching staff were working within a period of rapid economic, political, cultural and educational change (Huong & Fry, 2005); and secondly the experiences of teaching staff working in offshore education programs have rarely been reported in the literature (Johnston, 1999).

    Although prior studies have examined various issues faced by education providers in delivering transnational education programs, very few studies have examined the expectations, needs and insights of teaching staff in relation to these programs. To identify staff expectations and motivations together with the key elements that staff perceive as being crucial in an offshore education program could allow an education institution to make better informed decisions related to the quality of program delivery and also enable the institution to initiate a more systematic and strategic planning process to ensure that such offshore ventures will be successful and sustainable.


    A review of the literature reveals a lack of existing research associated with the experiences of teaching staff in transnational programs. However, issues from the following studies were identified as relevant to the aim of this paper.

    Zigarus (2007) found that teaching staff from the onshore awarding institution who travel overseas to teach for the first time often find the experience challenging. On top of the planning, preparation and logistics of teaching far from home, teachers are put into an unfamiliar learning environment in which they are the outsider. Their students and the local staff they are teaching with will usually have quite different expectations of them as teachers and professionals, compared with students and colleagues back home. An earlier study concluded that transnational classrooms are invariably culturally hybrid learning environments, in which the teaching staff and students need to understand each others' expectations and norms to be able to accommodate effectively (Leask, 2004).

    Transnational education programs are an established and integral part of the internationalisation activity of many Australian universities. Leask (2004) found that the benefit of such activity has the potential to be far greater than just economic for staff and students--there is the opportunity for staff to be involved in significant inter-cultural engagement with transnational students and local tutors, and for them to integrate this learning into their onshore teaching.

    A significant factor in ensuring the success of intensive offshore teaching is the commitment of the whole institution; with staff, schools and faculties being fully committed to internationalising the curriculum (Mangan 1997). Mangan (1997) also found that for an off-shore program to work effectively, teaching staff must be culturally sensitive. Ideally, teaching staff should be selected who have had a prior experience with and understanding of the particular culture. If this is not possible then staff should be provided with some type of orientation about the culture of the students they will be teaching.

    Examining the challenges with offshore programs, Cavusgil (1993) concluded that academic staff must see it as a valuable and rewarding experience to undertake teaching in an international setting. They play a vital role to ensure that offshore students being taught in 'intensive block mode' receive the same quality education equal to the one provided to onshore students in the traditional 'semester teaching mode'.


    The experiences of SUT academic staff were investigated by the author to determine if any of these events were in fact critical success factors that could be linked to the sustainability of the offshore business education program.

    4.1 Research methodology

    A qualitative case study using systems theory (Weinberg, 1975), and its subset stakeholder theory (Donaldson & Preston, 1995), was used as the theoretical framework for this research with data being collected from individuals and events connected with the (MIntA) Program in Vietnam. In particular the data includes observations, documentation, and interviews with staff involved in the program since 1998.

    4.2 Research questions

    In answer to the research question 'What factors contribute to the sustainability of an international offshore business education program in Vietnam?' it became apparent from the early collection of data that the expectations, needs and perceptions of staff were central to examining the factors connected to sustainability of an offshore education program and thus two related questions were also posed, namely; 'What are the expectations, needs and perceptions of staff involved in an international offshore business education program in Vietnam?' and, 'Are they met and does this impact on the sustainability of the international business program?'

    4.3 Data collection

    Observations, interviews and documentation formed the basis of the data collection. These were used to support educational recommendations from the research literature indicating that understanding whether an educational program meets expectations and needs of stakeholders is a necessary ingredient in judging the quality and effectiveness of the education service being provided (Ziguras, 2007).

    The primary and secondary data were qualitative in kind. A multi-method approach was employed for the primary data collection (De Vaus, 2001). It included individual semi-structured interviews with eight SUT academic staff; and two unstructured focus group sessions with five SUT academic staff who worked in the MIntA program. Secondary data was gathered from external sources such as existing studies, research and...

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