Tiếng Việt


Discussion of Vietnamese University Rankings by International Publications

In 2018, research and educational institutions in Vietnam published a total of 6,707 papers in ISI-listed journals, according to Web of Science (WoS) data.
Th?ng kê s? công b? ISI c?a các co s? dào t?o và nghiên c?u c?a Vi?t Nam 7 tháng d?u nam 2019 (d? li?u WoS 01/08/2019)
Number of ISI publications from Vietnamese educational and research institutions in the first seven months of 2019
Number of international publications from Vietnam
At the beginning of August 2019, the total number of publications from Vietnamese institutions reached 70% of the total number of 2018, in barely more than half the time. Among the Vietnamese institutions with strongest growth, Nguyen Tat Thanh University is of note: not in the top 10 in 2018 but now coming 5th by total number of papers published in the first seven months of 2019. This indicates that interesting changes in the Vietnamese top 10 ranking by number of international publications may be on their way for the coming years.
Note: The WoS data are gathered by publication year, making data by academic year (from halfway one year to halfway the next) only relative. The exact number per academic year can only be determined by the institutions themselves. Furthermore, the number of publications extracted from WoS is often smaller than the real number of publications from any given institution due to mistakes in naming, abbreviating, author order, and main institution of papers with hundreds of institutions.
Top 10 of educational and research institutions in Vietnam by number of ISI publications in 2018 and in the first seven months of 2019 (data from WoS, August 1, 2019).
In the context of Southeast Asia
The institutions above are all strong Vietnamese research institutions, but when comparing their publication capacity of the first seven months of 2019 with those of the regionally leading universities in Southeast Asia, Vietnamese institutions score only average positions, all coming behind the leading schools of Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. Of note is that just the numbers of publications of the three leading universities in the ASEAN block are five, three, and two times the number of Vietnam’s leading institution in the same time interval. This shows that the Vietnamese government and the universities themselves should pay even more attention to and invest even more in international publications to keep up with the other nations in the region.
ISI publication achievements of the first seven months of 2019 by the leading educational and research institutions of the ASEAN block (data from WoS, August 1, 2019).
Publication capacity and THE top 400 of Asian universities 2019: What chance does Vietnam have?
That Vietnam’s research capacity is still low is also clear from the ranking the Times Higher Education (THE) magazine published of over 400 Asian universities in May 2019 [1]. This ranking does not show any Vietnamese institutions at all. Only five of the ten ASEAN countries are represented: Singapore: 2 institutions; Indonesia: 6; Malaysia: 11; Philippines: 2 and Thailand: 14. In the eyes of the international community, not being in the THE ranking puts Vietnam at the same level as Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Brunei for research.
The THE ranking is based on thirteen indicators in five areas [2], each with their own weight, to rank universities. Of note is that the two indicators of number of publications and number of citations count for up to 60%. Therefore, one can say that a school with good research activities apparent at least through its number of international publication citations will have done more than half the work of getting its name into the ranking. However, while the number of international publications can be increased rapidly with concentrated and continuous investment, the number of citations depends on time, the research area of focus (which can show high or low number of citations) of the institution, and even on research quality. This is, therefore, a difficult indicator to get a high score for in a short time.
Th?ng kê s? công b? ISI c?a các co s? dào t?o và nghiên c?u c?a Vi?t Nam 7 tháng d?u nam 2019 (d? li?u WoS 01/08/2019)
Correlation between number of publications in the seven first months of 2019 and the 2019 THE ranking of Asian universities
The above image shows the correlation between the number of publications in the seven first months of 2019 and the 2019 THE ranking of the universities in the ASEAN nations. It is clear that universities with
- from 3000 to 5000 papers (or 400–700 papers per month) are all in the top 10 of Asia,
- from 2000 to 3000 papers (or 300–400 per month) or all in the top 30,
- from 1000 to 2000 papers (150–300 per month) are in the 100–200 range,
with less than 1000 papers (150 per month) are in the 200–400 range.
Does this suggest that universities with large numbers of papers will rank well in the THE ranking or in other prestigious rankings? Not entirely! There are still some cases like the University of Indonesia with 553 papers in the first seven months of 2019 but still ranking in the 100–200 range. The University of the Philippines has even fewer papers - 486 - but still appears in the top 100. And the De La Salle University with only 150 papers is still among the 300 best ones.
This means that the research quality of an institution does play a considerable role in the ranking, and is not always expressed by number of publications. Research quality is usually reflected in citation numbers, journal prestige, and research prestige (through Q rating and H index). Therefore, if some university has but a small number of publications, but if those are in worldwide leading journals like Nature or Science or in leading journals in their respective fields, its chances of being ranked by the THE or by any other ranking can still be high.
As an example of research quality through journal prestige, the prestigious Nature index from February 2018 to February 2019 shows that several Vietnamese institutions even with few publications (small AC) can still have a high position (high FC) and vice versa. The Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology and the Hanoi University of Science and Technology, for example, are ranked only second and sixth if considering number of publications, but rise to first and second positions when considering publication quality for the natural sciences and the life sciences. And inversely, Ton Duc Thang University and Duy Tan Universdity are first and fourth by number of international publications, but they are only fifth and sixth respectively in the Nature index.
Nature index of the top 10 Vietnamese educational and research institutions from February 2018 to February 2019
Going back to the issue of publication numbers and THE ranking, Vietnam has no universities in the 2019 THE ranking at all, but four schools had 400 ISI publications in the first seven months of 2019 (or over 60 per month). Ton Duc Thang University in particular had over a thousand, or about 150 per month. This is why there is reason to hope that Vietnamese research institutions will soon appear in the THE ranking. This cannot happen immediately, however, but may require three to four more years, as the THE considers the data of the last five years previous to the moment of ranking. As such, Vietnamese educational and research institutions should maintain or continue improving the quantity and the quality of their international publications, and especially of their international research papers.
Although many have recently opined that Vietnamese universities should stop crazily chasing after international publication numbers [3], the relation between quality and quantity seems to hold. With an insufficient quantity of international publications, it will certainly be difficult to translate this into quality for regional and international rankings.
Future research investment in Vietnamese context
Maintaining and increasing quantity and quality of international publications to make it into prestigious rankings in the near future will be no easy task, as Vietnamese institutions lack the abundant financial resources necessary for the long term. And even if they could get their names in the rankings, a lot more money for research would be necessary to improve their positions, which would be based on national and international contributions - instead of resting on their laurels while they actually just entered the bottom of those rankings. But how should investment be done in the Vietnamese context - a country with research level lower than that of developed countries, and where the population does not yet benefit much from the research done at their educational and research institutions due to the still low level of industrial and technological development?
It may be necessary to continue working on collaboration among universities domestically and with foreign universities to jointly increase publication quantity and quality, in addition to having institutions working on their research capacities themselves. For example, at this point having papers in leading journals like Science and Nature is still a dream for Vietnamese universities; but as such papers usually require investing millions or tens of millions of US dollars per paper, how could Vietnamese educational or research institutions be strong enough to pull this off and to maintain this? This is the very reason why, if any institutions can set down results of this caliber through foreign collaborations, this would be worthy of respect and would lead to breakthroughs with lower levels of investment.
The English language issue for international rankings
To get the most accurate assessment results, it is imperative to standardize foreign - and especially English - language names of educational and research institutions. Imagine an institution investing a lot to obtain publications, but these publications being unfindable in the prestigious scientific cataloging systems due to the name being spelled wrong: many of the publications will not count towards the ranking - an absurd waste.
Ways of writing in author addresses
This is why institutions should, once they have their eye on an international university ranking, pay serious attention to their English language name on papers. Already in 2014, Vice Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam advised universities and colleges around the country to review and rectify their foreign language names, and especially their English names, to facilitate international integration. A great many experts raised this issue before as well. To date, however, the situation may have improved but remains chaotic. Perusing publication data of Vietnamese universities in 2017 and 2018 shows that the English language names of many a Vietnamese university are sadly still written in many different ways. Here is one example:



Ways of writing in author addresses



ÐH Bách khoa Hà N?i

· Ha Noi University of Science and Technology,

· University of Science and Technology, Hanoi,


· Hanoi Technology University,

· Hanoi Univ. of Science and Tech,

· Hanoi University of Science and Technology,

· Hanoi University of Sci. and Tech,

· Hanoi University of Science & Technology,

· Hanoi University of Science Technology,

· Hanoi University of Technology.

From the viewpoint of scientific measurement or of university ranking, if universities fail to solve this issue, searching for papers from these schools on WoS or on Scopus will give inaccurate results. This is hugely damaging, as, once they join rankings, organizations like THE or QS may imprecisely assess the research capacity of these schools due to there being too many names. And this will naturally impact on the final ranking.
(Media Center)