Private Colleges Face Financial Strife

Private colleges and institutions have expressed fears over their long-term financial viability after the government banned bachelor’s degree course intakes outside public universities until 2014-15.

The new academic year for the private education sector began this month but uncertainty around the future of college courses has seen a substantial drop in enrollment numbers, causing financial pressure.

Under the government’s policy, announced earlier this year, all students already taking a bachelor’s degree at a private college can continue their studies, meaning the real financial impact is likely to be felt in two or three years’ time once the existing student pool dries up.

Private Education Sector Association Vice President, Mr Xaykhame Vongkhamsone, told Vientiane Times many private colleges were suffering from falling student enrollments, which could lead them into crisis.

“If the situation continues, many of our private colleges will face bankruptcy in the next two or three years,” he said.

Mr Xaykhame, who is also Director of Xaiphattana College, said his college had dropped from between 800 and 1,000 enrollments in previous years to just 200 so far this year.

He said a delay in announcing the results of state university entrance exams had prevented many students from signing up at private colleges.

While the suspension of popular bachelor’s degrees has made an inevitable dent in private college intakes, many institutions are hoping to pick up extra enrollments from students who failed to make the grade in university entrance exams.

The delay in exam results has prompted Mr Xaykhame to open new rounds of enrollment next month and in December in a bid to attract more students.

“I hope to get between 200 and 300 more students in the next two months after they fail to get a university place,” he said.

The ban on new bachelor’s courses is part of the government’s education reform to improve the quality of education while encouraging more people to enroll at vocational schools, to produce a larger pool of skilled labour.

Under the reform, colleges are required to improve their standards based on the criteria set by the Ministry of Education and Sports.

Mr Xaykhame said colleges were required to submit an improvement letter to the m inistry later this year before the review process begins early next year.

Those that meet the requirements will be granted permission to resume their bachelor’s courses in the academic year 2014-15. Almost 45,000 students graduated from secondary school this year but just 10,000 will be accepted at one of the country’s five public universities.

The National University of Laos, the University of Health Sciences, Luang Prabang’s Souphanouvong University, Savannakhet University and Champassak University are still permitted to take on bachelor degree students. Most students in Laos wish to study at a higher level, with few taking the vocational path. The government wants to reverse this trend by encouraging more people to become skilled in a trade.

Source: Vientiane Times