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Le, TKA 2016 'Developing the academy in Vietnam: an investigation of the formation of academic identity by university lecturers in Vietnam', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright TKA Le 2016


Vietnam’s higher education system is developing rapidly in a context of high expectations for its contribution to the social and economic advancement of the nation. A select group of leading, research-oriented universities are expected to play an important role in this process by connecting Vietnam with international knowledge networks and associated academic standards. This investigation was prompted by a need identified to document both the state of academic culture at these institutions and the influences contributing to the development of a strong sense of academic identity.

An ethnographic investigation of academic culture and academic identity at four of these research-oriented universities was conducted. The methodology of Naturalistic Inquiry was employed to generate robust and reliable ethnographic data concerning the workplace culture and the experiences of 30 academic staff members from across a range of organisational and disciplinary settings at these universities. Of interest were the issues, claims and concerns of the participants about the culture of their workplaces, and about the impact of this culture on the attainment of their academic aspirations.

The investigation demonstrates the existence of a keenly developing sense of academic identity at Vietnam’s leading, research-oriented universities. It is in the natural and applied sciences especially that a sense of allegiance to global disciplinary communities was found to be most prevalent. In these disciplines, there was a depth of engagement with and a strong aspiration towards acceptance within global knowledge networks through publishing in international peer-reviewed journals.

In the more individualistic research specialisms of the humanities, the desire for an affinity with global disciplinary communities was widely reported, but research outcomes in terms of international publications were comparatively far less in evidence. Publishing in the humanities remains for the most part locally focused and intermittent.

Academics working in the applied social sciences, particularly teacher education, were the least globally engaged, reporting meagre links with international scholarly networks. Typically, in the field of teacher education, an understanding of the need to mark out intellectual territory through publishing research findings in peer-refereed journals was acknowledged, but it was an attainment that was also considered to be wholly out of reach in practical terms.

The investigation provides empirical evidence to inform institutional and system-level policy settings for the development of Vietnam’s research-oriented universities. Importantly, the investigation shows that these settings must take account of epistemologically grounded cultural differences, and of the implications of these for the formation of academic identity.