Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


University of Wollongong. Department of Education


Postgraduate education in Vietnam is under considerable pressure with increasing student numbers and increasing expectations on academic staff. In short, the systemis in need of reform. While this is recognised by the Vietnamese State, the reform policies recently set in place do not address many of the perceived problems which stakeholders in the system are talking about.

This PhD thesis examines the feelings and attitudes of the people directly involved in postgraduate education in Vietnam – the managers, the teachers and the students - in relation to the quality issues of postgraduate education in Vietnam. It asks them what they think is wrong and who is to blame.

The stakeholders’ answers are analysed for the kinds of ‘quality’ themes which resonate with each of the stakeholder types and for the linguistic strategies the stakeholders used when they talked about quality and responsibility.

In summary, the results reveal a set of quality issues that need attention by the State and a blaming game which uses different linguistic strategies depending on the power relations among the three types of stake holders. Negative evaluations by the least powerful are typically indirect when critising those who are more powerful inthe system, while criticism of peers or those below one in the social hierarchy were typically direct and strident. Further, the managers who were direct in their criticism of students, teachers and themselves were the only group of stakeholders to blame the system. When they did though, they blamed the State indirectly.

Ironically, the findings show that the students are the most criticised and held most responsible for the problems of quality. This is despite that fact that the students are the least powerful and least able to enact any reforms of the system.

In addition to providing policy makers with some valuable insights into the opinions and feelings of stakeholders in the Vietnamese postgraduate system, the study also contributes to the usefulness of applying Appraisal Theory to Vietnamese. The linguistic analysis of the interview data revealed the strategies of ‘talk’ operating in Vietnamese when sensitive evaluations are being directed at socially more or less powerful people.