may tinh bang-thiet ke noi that

Clifford J. Shultz, II, Ph.D[1]

Arizona State University


Vietnam has made remarkable advances in the last two decades. The multisector successes resulting from Doi Moi, accession to the World Trade Organization, and some of the most impressive economic growth rates in the world, all help to explain the growing prosperity, optimism and confidence sweeping through Vietnam. Vietnamese — 85 million bright, talented and industrious people — truly have good reasons to be optimistic about their future, as they become vital contributors to the global economy.

Vietnam’s future growth and prosperity, however, depend on the development of its human resources. To compete and to be successful in today’s economically interdependent world, people must acquire and be able to apply appropriate quantitative, communicative, technical, and managerial skills. Such skills will be most valuable if they meet global standards of excellence.

Most countries look toward universities to develop these skills, particularly their economics faculties and schools of business or management. The goal of these educational institutions is to train citizens to compete (and to succeed) at various strata of academia, business practice, management, and government. The extent to which any university can optimally train the citizenry in these regards is dependent upon the quality of its faculty – the instructors and professors – charged with teaching, training and mentoring future business leaders and scholars. The capabilities of the faculty of course are largely determined by the quality of their doctoral education, and ultimately the quality of their research, teaching, and service to numerous stakeholders.

In light of this brief introduction, the purpose of this document is to share thoughts related to: (1) practices of doctoral education to international standard (e.g., practices in USA); (2) recommendations to enhance the quality of doctoral education in economics and management in the context of Viet Nam.


An important starting point in this discussion is to share some ideas on the purpose of the doctorate, which essentially is to create and to contribute new knowledge. This is particularly true in the case of the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), a venerable degree that emerged from the great universities of Europe, centuries ago. The Ph.D. is the degree most frequently held by professors in business or management schools and in economics faculties.

The processes of contributing new knowledge, and thus to earning a Ph.D., vary across institutions and even within institutions. The processes also vary across traditions. The European model, for example, has tended not to require a structured curriculum with prescribed courses, preferring instead to have professors serve as mentors for students, as students serve as apprentices to professors. The American model, which Europeans, Asians, and Australians increasingly are imitating, requires students to enroll in specific courses, especially in the areas of theory-development and methodology, and sometimes language and technical/statistical proficiency. Both traditions usually require a comprehensive “qualifying examination” and a thesis or dissertation: extensive study, culminating in new knowledge to the student’s academic discipline. Regardless of the model, most disciplines, sciences, academies and/or scholarly associations have generally accepted standards of quality and excellence, which determine whether the knowledge generated is truly new and, equally important, valuable. I shall return to this issue of quality and excellence, below.

Another important point to consider is the evolving conception and purpose of the doctorate. Just as institutions in Vietnam are exploring ways to improve doctoral education, so too are institutions in the USA and in Europe. The point to be drawn from this brief paragraph is that the doctorate is not viewed anywhere as a perfect entity, rather it is viewed as an evolving entity that needs to be assessed and perhaps altered occasionally if students, universities and ultimately societies are going to benefit from its existence.


Earning a doctorate from a quality institution is a rigorous intellectual process. High intelligence, inquisitiveness, self-discipline and perseverance, while imperative, are not the only predictors for success. Students must be able to absorb and to process large amounts of information. They also must be skilled in the most current analytical tools of research methodology and design, so that they are prepared to develop the skills needed to do original research; to study and to explain phenomena. They also must have the intellectual and emotional constitution – and institutional support — to question the shortcomings of existing paradigms and models, and to posit rival hypotheses and explanations. This critical thinking leads to a form of “creative destruction”, which while disproving previously accepted tenets, also enables scientists to forge new ground, to expand understanding of our world, and thus to provide new and hopefully valuable knowledge to improve our world[2].

As stated earlier, much of the learning-teaching is done in weekly seminars. Students are required to read classic articles and the most current topic-specific articles that have been published in leading scholarly periodicals. The articles for the seminar are selected at the discretion of the professor. Students typically are required to make presentations and/or to write papers that analyze and critique these articles; they typically are required to write a final paper at the conclusion of the seminar that offers new interpretations, opportunities for further research and/or new directions for research.

At many schools students also will be assigned or will choose one or more professors to serve as research mentor(s); this is done to involve students in meaningful research projects as soon as possible. When the review process to assess student-applicants is conducted well, both students and professors can determine with whom they would like to work, based on shared interests, even before students matriculate into the program.


American Universities usually require core courses in methodology, statistics and disciplines complementary to the student’s chosen field of focus. Some schools will also require foreign language and computer program mastery. It is worth repeating that many universities outside the USA are moving toward the model that requires doctoral students to participate in structured courses. The precise learning-teaching models and courses vary from school to school. I provide 3 examples from schools and marketing departments with which I am very familiar: Columbia University (where I earned my Ph.D.), Arizona State University (where I am currently a professor), and the University of Nebraska (a highly regarded and entrepreneurial program, with unique links to industry and government, and where I frequently work)[3].

Students who study to earn the Ph.D. in marketing at Columbia University are given considerable latitude, but they tend to concentrate in certain areas, such as, mathematical modeling, behavioral science to explain customer choices, and the selection of strategy and its impact. Students also are expected to attend informal seminars and to enroll in several marketing seminars and courses. The basic courses may vary from year to year, but typically they include choice and decision making models, applied social psychology (attitude formation and change), marketing-science models, measurement methods, and competitive strategy (from an applied microeconomic view). The first year of doctoral study at Columbia includes Doctoral Research Instruction (I and II), Microeconomic

Analysis (I and II), Research Methods, Mathematical Methods (I and II), Consumer Behavior II, Totally Eclectic Pro-seminar. The second year also includes course requirements. Columbia students are encouraged to work closely with professors to develop, to conduct, and to report significant research on topics such as buyer behavior, industrial marketing and purchasing, marketing strategies, marketing planning and information systems, advertising, choice modeling, and the performance of multinational firms.

The Ph.D. program at Arizona State University is for students who want to become full-time professors at research-oriented universities. People who want to work in industry positions are directed to other programs. All students complete a core curriculum; they also tailor their work to achieve personal goals. The program is designed to be completed in four years, post masters degree; five years for those who hold a bachelor’s degree. Four core marketing seminars are required during the first year of study: Marketing Research Design Marketing Management, Consumer Behavior, Marketing Models. Students also typically take one more class each semester on subjects such as research methodology and theoretical foundations. Students also are required to turn in a research paper and also present this research to the faculty at the completion of the first year of study.

The second year of study includes Services Science (an area of excellence at Arizona State University) and New Products. Additional courses in research methodology and theoretical foundations also are taken. Once course work is completed, a written comprehensive exam is administered. It essentially covers the field of marketing. The written exam has two parts: review of research in the student’s area of interest; the development of an original research idea. During the last two years in the program, students concentrate on their dissertation. They usually do not take any more courses. The dissertation is designed to develop and to defend independent research contributing to the advancement of marketing knowledge.

The Ph.D. program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is designed to foster intellectual curiosity, business insight, and effective leadership. The faculty and staff are committed to educating and to training the next generation of ethical global business leaders. The College of Business Administration emphasizes close ties with professional and business leaders. Applied research as well as theoretical research is valued, and industrial linkages are important. For example, housed within the UNL College of Business Administration are centers and programs that receive national and international acclaim, including the Bureau of Business Research; the Council on Economic  Education; the National Center for Research in Economic Education; UNL-Gallup Leadership Institute; the Center for Entrepreneurship; and Pan Pacific Business Association. Nebraska, similarly to Columbia and ASU, has course requirements in the first two years emphasizing research metrics and methods, theory development and exposure to faculty research interests. During this period, professors mentor doctoral students and begin collaborating with them on research projects. The Marketing Department at UNL is also unique in that the program is organized to encourage students to publish two academic articles before completing the doctorate, as a requisite for earning the doctorate. These publications are required in lieu of a qualifying exam.


All quality doctoral programs will require the successful completion of a dissertation; successful completion includes a successful oral defense before the student’s committee and sometimes before other stakeholders of the research that led to the dissertation. Good dissertations will demonstrate awareness and understanding of relevant literature. A lengthy literature review alone, however, is not generally acceptable. The literature review should raise questions and/or draw attention to unexplained phenomena. It may be followed by testable hypotheses. It should then clearly and extensively articulate methods to be used to test hypotheses, to collect data and to analyze data. All of which should indicate that the doctoral student will indeed add new knowledge.

The preferred method or methods is/are largely driven by the preferences of the student’s dissertation committee, and the most current practices in the student’s academic discipline. A single case-study is generally no longer permissible, though lengthy ethnographies are sometimes acceptable, especially in the field of consumer behavior. New metrics and model(s) of secondary data is(are) often favored in economics, finance and accounting departments. Marketing and Management departments typically favor the collection and analysis of primary data via, for example, experiments and/or surveys.


The preceding text is predicated on institutional support for quality scholarship. That support is manifested in faculty, facilities, and finances. A few examples follow.

·        Highly trained professors who embrace the ideas shared above and who themselves are actively engaged in ground-breaking research that is adding new knowledge.[4]

·        Access to current information, in the forms of books, journals, statistical programs, networks, conference proceedings, and visiting scholars.

·        A learning and teaching environment that nurtures creativity and excellence.

·        Financial incentives that reward professors and students for scholarly excellence.


Once a quality faculty is assembled in a quality facility, in the USA and increasingly elsewhere, the ultimate measures of excellence and/or quality are indicated by the following criteria.

For professors with faculty appointments in the most highly regarded doctoral programs criteria of quality and excellence usually are:

· Number and quality of scholarly publications, especially publications in respected double-blind, refereed, academic journals, which are published by respected academies, universities or international publishing companies, and that are widely disseminated and accessible via postal subscriptions or the Internet.

· Number and dollar- (or dong-, yen-, euro-, etc.) amount of grants and fellowships awarded for scientific research and other forms of scholarship.

· Number and quality of doctoral students supervised.

· “Best” paper recognition from the academy.

· Academic rank and tenure.

· Endowed professorships.

· Editorial board memberships.

· Editorships.

· Salary level and annual performance-based salary adjustments.

· “Light” teaching loads (2×2 or less), which enable more time for research and mentoring of doctoral students.

· Financial resources and release time to attend conferences, to collect data and to write manuscripts, etc.

The preceding factors tend to predict the success of one’s doctoral program. In the context of doctoral students, per se, other indicators of excellence include:

· GMAT and/or GRE scores of matriculating students.

· Research involvement or publications during doctoral study.

·  Number of job offers the doctoral student/graduate receives, as well as the quality of the institution where s/he is placed (primary research 1 institutions are most desirable).

·  The salary offered the newly hired graduate.

· Type and number of additional perquisites and incentives (light teaching load (2×2 or less), summer financial support for research, money for conference travel, doctoral student / research assistant support.).

· If/when/where the graduate publishes all or part of his/her doctoral dissertation.

· The long term success of the graduate as she works toward becoming a professor (where success is measured by the same criteria for his/her professors, listed above).

I should add that some current and former Vietnamese doctoral students that I know and with whom I have worked made the transition to the American doctoral learning model, very well. They also have produced excellent dissertations, have published their scholarship in quality journals, and have been rewarded with good job offers at quality universities in Vietnam, the USA, Europe and Australia.[5]

Finally, it should be reiterated that quality and excellence in doctoral programs are not probable unless the doctoral-granting institution fosters an intellectual environment that values (and provides incentives for) leading research.

These efforts also must be complemented by financial support, light teaching loads, access to scholarly literature and networks, scholarly autonomy, travel to conferences and symposia, and academic collaboration, all of which facilitate the realization of globally accepted standards of scholarly excellence.


[1] Clifford J. Shultz, II, is Professor and Marley Foundation Chair at Arizona State University. He also serves as President of the International Society of Markets and Development, Editor of the Journal of Macromarketing, Faculty Fellow at the Harvard-Fulbright Economics Teaching Program, and Director of the Balkans Project. Website:; e-mail:

[2] At least two perspectives on what constitutes “valuable knowledge” can be found in the academy. One perspective suggests that any new knowledge that emerges from doctoral study, which uses appropriate scientific methods, is inherently good. A second perspective suggest thatnew knowledge should have some academic, economic and/or social utility. Different schools and faculties vary on which perspective they emphasize. That said, my own bias is that business, economics, and management schools and universities should encourage doctoral education that has utility; this would seem to be especially important to a country with a developing economy.

 [3] Some of the information shared about the exemplary Ph.D. programs that I have selected is gleaned from the schools’ websites. Additional information about these and other schools and programs now is widely available via the Internet.

[4] Building a world class faculty can be achieved by buying professors or training them. Buying them presumes that financial resources are abundant. The university then simply hires the best possible faculty from around the world with incentives that exceed the market rate. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is a possible example of this approach to faculty development. However, many institutions work in environments of financial scarcity. Therefore, to strengthen existing faculty, the institution should encourage faculty exchanges and visiting scholars programs; participation in research consortia, collaborative research and teaching.

[5] The intellectual rigor and occasional stress of the doctoral-level learning process raises questions about the criteria for selecting doctoral students. Matriculation into the best programs is very competitive. The institutions at which I work use mostly objective criteria, with some exceptions for some ethnic/racial minorities and economically disadvantaged groups. The criteria largely are performance on standardized tests (GRE or GMAT), grades for courses completed and rigor of curriculum completed, letters of recommendation, the applicant’s essay (indicating focus, motivation and fit with faculty interests), and occasionally personal interviews.