In March 2014, a committee within the Hanoi National University of Education revoked a master’s degree previously awarded to former student Do Thi Thoan (pen name Nha Thuyen), under circumstances suggesting retaliation for the academic content of Ms. Thoan’s thesis. In addition, following the decision the university terminated the employment contract of Ms. Thoan’s thesis advisor, Associate Professor Nguyen Thi Binh.
Ms. Thoan was awarded her master’s degree in 2010, after receiving the university’s highest available evaluation for her thesis, titled The Marginalized’s position: Open-Mouth Group’s poetic experiments from a cultural perspective.” In March of 2014, however, a separate university committee conducted a closed-door review of Ms. Thoan’s thesis, and summarily revoked her degree. Neither Ms. Thoan nor Professor Binh was informed of the committee’s actions; nor were they given the opportunity to respond to any allegations of academic misconduct or mistake within the thesis.
Although the committee’s decision making process was not transparent, one of the committee members subsequently published his evaluation of the thesis. His bases for recommending that Ms. Thoan be stripped of her degree included that her thesis displayed viewpoints that were provocative, anti-government, and insulting to late President Ho Chi Minh, and sought attack the political system.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the revocation of a degree and dismissal of an academic in apparent retaliation for the political content of academic work. State and university authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with academic freedom or expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Professional consequences aimed at limiting such expressive activity — including retaliatory discharge and revocation of a degree — harm academic freedom and related higher education values including autonomy and social responsibility.