Two Vietnamese universities prepare for international ABET accreditation

In May 2019, with support from the USAID-sponsored BUILD-IT Alliance, experts in ABET[1] evaluation from the U.S. visited two BUILD-IT academic partners: Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HCMUT) and Industrial University of Ho Chi Minh City (IUH).

The practice visits focused on key criteria aligned with the BUILD-IT project goals of increasing STEM education quality in Vietnam including stakeholder involvement, student outcomes, and continuous improvement of curriculum and faculty. The practice visits were conducted in order to help university programs become better prepared for official ABET visits.

Throughout the visits, university program leaders and quality assurrance professionals had invaluable discussions with the experts on curriculum topics that included continuous improvement and laboratory development. Experts also answered many questions relating to key ABET evaluation criteria.

With the insightful feedback and recommendations, the two academic programs are now better prepared to move forward with an official visit. In addition, as the agenda reflected elements of an official ABET visit, this helped the university gain experience in hosting an actual ABET visit.

“The USAID BUILD-IT Alliance is here to support and facilitate universities in Vietnam to successfully achieve ABET accreditation. More importantly, university leaders and academics are the ones who make changes happen by continuously improving curriculum quality and teaching methods. Without the institution commitment and determination to improve the educational experience, the practice visits would not be possible,” stated Dr. Kathy Wigal, USAID BUILD-IT Project Director, Arizona State University.

Dr. John Sammarco stated, “At HCMUT, the electrical and electronics engineering program leadership showed an intense interest in improving the program. They were very receptive to suggestions on how to better prepare for an eventual ABET visit and to my suggestions of best practices that I have seen used in other similar programs.”

Rich Warren, evaluator for the HCMUT Computer Engineering program, stated, “The faculty are highly qualified, engaged in research and are heavily involved and eager to enhance their continuous improvement practices to make the program even better.”

Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology

Vietnamese universities have been successfully moving the needle by achieving ABET accreditation. To date, four programs have already been successfully accredited, with an additional three programs in progress. HCMUT is the first university in Vietnam to achieve such accreditation, and Cao Thang Technical College was the first vocational college to attain ABET-accredited programs.

At the Industrial University of Ho Chi Minh City, Vice Rector Assoc. Prof. Dr. Le Van Tan stated, “The Board of Directors’ strategy is that all study programs will be regionally or internationally accredited.  The plan is that 11 study programs will be accredited by ABET.  This shows the attention of IUH to its teaching quality assurance mission.”

Dr. John Sammarco stated that “he was very impressed by the IUH’s professionalism and attention to detail during his two days with the Food Engineering Technology program. Their hard work towards gaining ABET accreditation is evident.” 

Dr. Bill Tollner, working with the Biotechnology program, stated, “The program features a rich experiential learning component and a young faculty actively involved in professional development. Their preparations for upcoming ABET evaluation also illustrates their commitment to improving the program and the students’ education.”

Industrial University of Ho Chi Minh City

Why is ABET important?

ABET evaluation provides assurance that a college or university program meets the essential quality standards to produce graduates that are ready to enter their professions in STEM-related fields. Achieving ABET status has been known as a key to open opportunies, not only for students and graduates, but also for faculty, institutions, and industries.

For students, the benefits lie in having a well-rounded education, advantages for—both locally and internationally—enhancing employment opportunities and continuing with higher education after acquiring college or bachelor degrees. By participating in programs recognized with ABET success, in addition to developing academic skills, students are equpped with experiences that nurture aptitude in the 21st century skills—critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork.

These helpful experiences are offered to students through the key items of one ABET-accredited program—applied project-based curriculum, site visits, field trips, and competitions designed for encouraging students to practice their skills and learnings in solving real-life issues.

Graduates from an ABET-accredited program will have a solid educational foundation and are capable of leading the way in innovation, emerging technologies, and in anticipating the welfare and safety needs of the public. Furthermore, since ABET success is recognized worldwide through international agreements accreditation as proof that a collegiate program has met standards essential to produce graduates ready to enter the critical fields of STEM education, graduate students can transfer to attain higher education universities all over the world, and will likely see more job opportunities open up to them, not only locally but globally.

For prospective employers, ABET success assures, via assessment and continuous improvement processes, that graduates have received a quality education and are capable of performing a broad range of professional responsibilities. This means there is higher chance for businesses to recruit work-ready graduates with fully-equipped employability skills, as well as a great way to achieve cost effectiveness through shorter training courses. In some countries, industry and government will not hire graduates unless their degree is from an ABET-accredited program. 

For university faculty and leadership, the process of preparating for ABET evaluation provides a great journey of learning, innovating, experimenting, and adopting up-to-date teaching practices. Under insightful university leadership, with industry input and feedback for training programs on their learning outcomes and training facilities, faculty learn about new technology and stay up-to-date with industry requirements for the future STEM workforce.

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