The American Credit System’s Pedagogical Objectives: Implications for Vietnam’s Higher Education Reform
By Dr. Eli Mazur and Dr. Pham Thi Ly
“America’s system of higher education is the best in the world . . . because there is no system.”
In Vietnam, the pedagogical mission and governance structures of universities face credible challenges from an exponential growth in student enrollment and a widely shared recognition that higher education is the foundation of a knowledge society essential to Vietnam’s future. Government leaders, public intellectuals, newspapers, parents, and students are calling for higher education reform, and criticizing the current system for its sterility and disregard for student choice. One administrative solution often proposed to address this concern is further implementation of the credit allocation/accumulation system, which is associated with American higher education. This paper will examine the global and economic context of the current debate, the historical foundations and contemporary manifestations of the credit system in the United States, and recent attempts by China to adopt the credit system. In summation, this paper will appraise the feasibility of further implementation of the American credit system in Vietnam.
A. Higher Education and the Knowledge Revolution
In the recent past, higher education was reserved for social elites preparing for careers in pedagogy, public administration, and science. This is no longer true. Throughout the world, the percentage of college age individuals enrolled in institutions of higher education increased by 75% between 1991 and 2003; in Vietnam this number increased by 600%. Historically, societies embraced higher education for its profound affect upon an individual’s intellectual and social development. According to many scholars, tertiary education’s recent expansion is driven by a fundamental transformation of the world economy from an industrial into a knowledge based system.
For most of the twentieth century, the economic wealth of a nation was largely derived from investments in machinery and innovations in the production process. Within this matrix, the path to becoming an industrialized nation was clear; combine imported technology with relatively cheap domestic labor, and produce internationally competitive exports. Although this road to economic development still exists, the relative value of creating manufacturing efficiencies has substantially declined. One reason is that technology is no longer limited to easily imported production machinery which can be purchased on the market and used to manufacture consumer goods; instead, technological innovations are embedded within consumer goods. As a result, developing countries have witnessed a disheartening phenomenon over the past several decades; despite a decline in the developed countries’ share of world manufacturing exports from 82.3% to 70.9% between 1980-1997, the developed countries’ share of world value added in manufacturing exports has increased from 64.5% to 73.3%.
Universities are the most important engines powering this knowledge revolution. Many of the fastest growing exports in the world, such as semiconductors, computers, telecommunications equipment, and pharmaceuticals have negligible manufacturing costs when compared with the years of research and development embedded within these products. The manufacturing of these products may occur in Vietnam, but the bio-chemistry, electrical engineering and scientific theories making these products possible, and constituting an ever increasing share of the values, are created in the universities of developed nations.
The United States has the best system of higher education in the world. According to the most respected rankings, seventeen of the top twenty universities in the world are in the U.S., as well as thirty-five of the top fifty. These universities employ 70% of the world’s Nobel Prize winners, produce 30% of the world’s academic articles in science and engineering, and produce 44% of the world’s most cited academic articles. For developing countries like Vietnam, the most impressive aspect of the U.S. higher education system is that it manages to maintain this excellence despite a larger portion of students entering tertiary education than almost anywhere else in the world.
Accordingly, Vietnam and other successful developing countries, facing the dual pressures of explosive enrollment and quality demands, are examining the U.S. higher education system to discover its secrets. Generally, these countries have focused their attention on a unique administrative aspect of the American higher education system known as the credit allocation/accumulation system.
B. The American Credit System
On a superficial level, the American credit system is a simple administrative mechanism counting a student’s academic progression towards graduation. In reality, the credit system is the procedural expression of a desire to fundamentally alter the relationship between universities and students, as well as the university mission.
1. History and Administrative Function of the American Credit System
In the nineteenth century American higher education remained deeply influenced by the classical educational tradition, in which students are trained in the same subjects and progress towards their degree within a rigid curriculum consisting of required courses. Criticisms emerged that the lack of flexibility in this system failed to satisfy practical economic demands, student aspirations, and produced suboptimal teaching quality. According to these critiques, a prescribed curriculum did not allow for advanced courses tailored to superior students, multidisciplinary education, or a strong connection between faculty research and teaching. In 1885, Harvard University President Charles Elliot summarized these critiques and the advantages of the elective system by noting that:
“Every prescribed curriculum is necessarily elementary from beginning to end . . . . No one subject can possibly be carried beyond its elements; no teacher, however learned and enthusiastic, can have any advanced pupils; and no [students], however competent and eager, can make serious attainments in any single subject. Under an elective system the great majority of students [can] use their liberty to pursue some subject or subjects with a reasonable degree of thoroughness. This concentration upon single lines develops advanced teaching, and results in a general raising of the level of instruction.”
In America, Harvard University became the first institution of higher education to permit students a modicum of choice in selecting courses. Students were first allowed total autonomy in selecting courses during their senior years, and over time this autonomy expanded to include the junior, sophomore, and most of the freshman year of study. Within a decade, Harvard University’s elective system was transplanted, adapted, and implemented in institutions of higher education throughout the United States.
Transforming the university curriculum from required to elective courses required the creation of an administrative system to track a student’s progress towards achieving a university degree. The first unit of measurement was derived from the courses themselves, and specifically the number of contact hours between faculty and students per week, per semester. A bachelor’s degree consisted of a combination of time units – credit hours – from required and elective courses. As an administrative device, the credit system quickly assumed an important role in defining various aspects of resource allocation in universities; such as tuition by credit hours selected, faculty salaries by credit hours taught, and programs of study (major concentrations) by credit hours required.
The Primary Administrative Functions of the Credit System
The credit system permits educational flexibility allowing students to change majors, programs, and institutions through the transferability of credit hours. Students can measure progress towards a degree.
The credit system provides a measure of faculty productivity. If a faculty member teaches four different courses every week, and each course meets three hours per week, then the faculty member has a 12 credit hour work load. Faculty productivity can be further measured by multiplying a faculty member’s “credit hour work load” with “the number of students in each course” to produce a measure of a faculty member’s contribution to an academic department’s instructional output. Compensation can be directly correlated to a faculty member’s credit hour productivity.
Universities employ credit hours to set tuition levels, allocate resources for personnel and buildings, and analyze the productivity of individual faculty and departments. Tuition is often assessed by the number of credit hours elected. The decision to construct a new building in the economics department or the biology department is determined by the anticipated number of credit hours produced by the different proposals. The renting of facilities, leasing of laboratory equipment, or the use of high technology is measured by “costs per credit hour.” Definitions of whether a students or faculty member is “fulltime” or “part-time” are determined with regards to credits. The credit hour gives college administrators a tool for analyzing institutional operations.
The credit system provides states with a basis of rationalizing public expenditures on higher education. The state can develop funding formulas for public institutions which condition financial support on the number of student credit hours produced.
2. Deliberation and Vision: The Credit System in Modern Universities
The American credit system is no system at all; in fact the credit system assumes completely different forms at many of the leading public and private universities in the United States. Why? For foreign observers, one of the defining and sometimes surprising aspects of the American higher education system is the level of decentralization. To take one example, in contrast to England, France, Sweden, Vietnam, and almost every other country in the world, the United States does not have a central government agency overseeing higher education. Although the United States Congress often enacts national legislation guaranteeing and protecting the right of educational access for minority groups, and many federal agencies regulate the allocation and use of federal funds to create incentives for universities to pursue particular fields of study, generally the federal government plays no role in establishing national curriculums, establishing tuition or enrollment levels, or making personnel decisions within individual institutions. The federal government and the state government do not have a significant role in deciding which universities, colleges, or programs are accredited. Although federal funding subsidizing both student loans and university research grants is often conditioned (even for public universities) on accreditation by one of nineteen nationally recognized accreditation agencies, these agencies are non-governmental and employ experts in the field to review higher education programs for quality assurance.
Although these accrediting organizations are concerned with the quality of instruction, credentials of faculty, and perhaps the sustainability of university financing, these agencies do not interfere with the organization or substance of the curriculum, and they generally leave issues of the transferability of credit to be resolved between the universities themselves. As a result, the modern evolution of the credit system is largely driven by needs and educational vision specific to individual universities; in fact, in American higher education the credit hour does not have a common, single definition. At some universities a credit hour is measured by contact hours in class, in other universities it is measured by a combination of contact hours and anticipated homework, and at still other universities it is measured by the perceived difficulty of the course material. Essentially, the credit system and the credit hour is an administrative mechanism for coordinating an individual university’s pedagogical vision. At John Hopkins University, for instance, there is no core curriculum, instead the university purports to trust its “highly diverse and often entrepreneurial students to work with faculty advisors to develop the academic concentrations that are best suited to their interests, talents, and levels of academic achievement.” At St. John’s College the curriculum is an “all-required course of study [which is] interdisciplinary and includes: Four years of seminar; four years of language; four years of math; three years of laboratory science; and one year of music.” At Colorado College “the academic year [is divided] into eight three-and-a-half week segments . . . students take one principal course at a time and professors teach one . . . [and] courses are given equal importance.” In all these different cases, the credit system is a vehicle for facilitating a student’s journey throughout the university, as well as coordinating the allocation of resources.
The use of the credit system at Harvard University is illustrative of the pedagogical ends that drive the most common forms of credit system implementation in American universities. As noted, in the latter part of the nineteenth century Harvard University moved from a system completely prescribing the curriculum to a system of nearly all electives. Over the years, this system has been revised on many occasions, adding some required courses and eliminating others, as theories of higher education have changed. Presently, one of the major theories in American higher education is that students should choose their own specialties and concentrations, but universities should provide general education, meaning “a curriculum aimed at imparting general knowledge and developing general intellectual capacities in contrast to a professional, vocational or technical curriculum.”
Scholars and educational administrators justify general education on the basis that technical knowledge learned in specialized university courses has a short life span. As a result, universities have a duty to encourage intellectual flexibility in their graduates. Although student’s are better positioned to select their own field’s of specialization, the university and its faculty have a comparative advantage in selecting a curriculum that will satisfy the purposes of general knowledge. At Harvard and many other universities, for instance, a four year bachelor’s degree is separated into three parts: one year of required courses known as the “core curriculum”; two years of courses within the student’s area of specialization consisting of several required courses and a number of electives selected from a specified list, and the equivalent of one year of electives for students to sample other disciplines throughout the university.
Harvard University’s contribution to a student’s “general education” is embodied in the core curriculum which is required of every graduate.
The philosophy of the core curriculum rests on the conviction that every Harvard graduate should be broadly educated . . . . It assumes that students need some guidance in achieving this goal, and that the faculty has an obligation to direct them towards the knowledge, intellectual skills, and habits of thought that are the hallmarks of educated men and women. [The Core Curriculum] does not define intellectual breadth as a mastery of Great Books, or the digestion of a specific quantum of information, or the surveying the current knowledge in certain fields. Rather, the [Core Curriculum] seeks to introduce students to the major approaches to knowledge in areas that the faculty considers indispensable to undergraduate education. It aims to show what kinds of knowledge and what forms of inquiry exist in these areas, how different means of analysis are acquired, how they are used, and what their value is.
Although Harvard’s core curriculum is a requirement equivalent to one year of academic study, it is notable that the core curriculum does not eliminate student choice, instead it simply guides it. The core curriculum consists of six groups of courses (Literature and Arts, Science, Historical Study, Social Analysis, Foreign Cultures, and Moral Reasoning) specially designed on an inter-departmental and multidisciplinary basis to achieve the goal of general education. Students are required select one or more courses from each curricular group, but these groups consist of numerous courses from many different departments. Thus, the social analysis group, which is intended to introduce students to “some of the main forms of analysis and the historical and quantitative techniques needed to investigate the workings and development of modern society,” offers a range of courses from “The Principles of Economics” in the economics department to “Conceptions of Human Nature” in the psychology department. Although the topics of investigation are quite different, the economy versus human behavior, the approaches and investigative tools are similar. Thus, “the courses within each area or subdivision of the [Core Curriculum] are equivalent in the sense that, while the subject matter may vary, their emphasis on a particular way of thinking is the same.”
How did Harvard University decide which groups of courses should become part of the core curriculum, and which individual courses should constitute one group? Ultimately, these decisions, which are under constant criticism and revision, were created through a process of leadership by visionary academic administrators (university presidents and faculty deans) and in-depth consultation with faculty. For instance, Dr. Henry Rosovsky, the former Dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, began the process of constructing a new core curriculum in the 1970s by articulating his views of what comprises a general education:
(1) An educated person must be able to think and write clearly and effectively . . . . To put this in another way: students should be trained to think critically . . . . (2) An educated person should have a critical appreciation of the ways in which we gain knowledge and understanding of the universe, society, and ourselves. Thus, [students] should have an informed acquaintance with the mathematical and experimental methods of the physical and biological sciences; with the main forms of analysis an the historical and quantitative techniques needed for investigating the workings and development of modern society; with some of the important scholarly, literary, and artistic achievements of the past; and with the major religious and philosophical conceptions of mankind . . . . (3) An educated [person] . . . cannot be provincial in the sense of being ignorant of other cultures and other times . . . . [and] (4) An educated person is expected to have some understanding of, and experience thinking about, moral and ethical problems.
Over time, this vision formed the basis of Harvard’s core curriculum, with faculty and academic departments constructing the curricular groups and selecting courses in an attempt to achieve this vision.
C. Lessons from China’s Implementation of the American Credit System
During the 1980s and 1990s China’s higher education system faced criticism which “encompassed almost all areas of . . . methodology and curriculum.” Similar to Vietnam, China’s higher education system is deeply influenced by two traditions, Confucian and Soviet. While the Confucian tradition emphasizes teaching methods, the Soviet model directs the curriculum towards science. Both the Confucian and Soviet influences advocate a planned curriculum. Under the Soviet model, which reached its peak from 1950 through 1978, all students entered university in accordance with an economic plan, these students were assigned specialties, and university education consisted of a four year progression through required courses. Today, as part of the broad higher education reforms sweeping China, “[t]he American Credit System . . . [is] an officially recommended antidote for the ‘fixed’ and ‘dead’ features of unified curricula and study plans” and most of China’s universities have implemented the credit system.
China’s experience adopting the American credit system produces several cautionary lessons. First and foremost, in China “the credit system was simply superimposed upon the fixed teaching plan and students still had little freedom of choice among courses.” China’s universities assign credit hours to individual courses, but required courses still constitute approximately 85% of a four year degree. Furthermore, although the credit system assumes many different administrative forms in China’s universities, often credits are not transferable among universities or departments within a university. As compared with the United States, where the credit system was devised as a means to coordinating general education, in China the credit system was seemingly adopted as an end in itself; as a means of counting students course work. As a result, the credit system is only employed as an administrative device, without achieving the benefits that China perceived in the America’s system of higher education.
Why is the American credit system much different in China than in the United States? Although the answer to this question is complex and multifaceted, two factors seem most important.
First, implementation of the credit system in China lacks the corresponding intellectual debate and statement of vision at the university level which was an indispensable dimension of the credit system’s creation, different manifestations, and current adaptations in American higher education. In China, critics of the American credit system have successfully argued that the system has negative effects, which include the allowance of a significant cohort of students who pursue easy courses, ignore basic subjects, and thus fail to acquire systematic knowledge. These critiques have merit, and the architects of America’s university curriculums have faced these critiques and arrived at quite different responses through a process of deliberation. As noted, the American credit system, is no system at all. At some institutions, the credit system is used to facilitate a completely elective curriculum, at other institutions it is only an administrative system because all courses are compulsory, and at the majority of American institutions the credit system is used to coordinate the university’s specific vision of general education.
Harvard’s former President Charles Elliot, as well as former Dean Henry Rosovsky and current President Lawrence Summers, would likely respond to critics of the credit system in China that higher education systems should not necessarily be designed to satisfy the needs of the weakest students; weak students will perform poorly whether or not the system is elective or compulsory. Instead, the system should be designed to foster excellence in student and faculty achievement. Certainly, President Elliot’s initial vision of a completely elective tertiary education has been revised as subsequent educational administrators have recognized the responsibility of universities to provide students with guidance in acquiring a general education. However, a majority of universities still believe students have a comparative advantage in pursuing their own academic interests, and that encouraging student academic choice creates powerful incentives to improve faculty teaching, research and university course selection.
In the absence these discussions at the university level in China, the Chinese higher education system has not coordinated its management system, advisory system, or overall curriculum to achieve the ends sought by the credit system in the United States. For instance, one of the core principles of the American higher education is that student’s should have a wide latitude of choice in selecting their courses, as well as sufficient time for self study to complete course readings, draft term papers, and pursue specific academic interests. As a result, class time in the United States is limited to an average of fifteen hours per week. In China, however, students have little choice in selecting courses and they spend an average of twenty-five hours per week in class (thirty five hours in the English department); 66% more than their counterparts in American universities. This may reflect the continuing desire in China to manage a student’s time and educational experience; a desire incompatible with the most popular forms of implementing the credit system in the United States. In the United States the credit system is a means of forcing universities to continually examine education and teaching methodology. The credit system, when combined with a relatively wide latitude of student academic choice and elective course offerings, promotes continual education reform by requiring academic departments and faculty members to compete with one another for students, and thus respond to the changing demands and interests of the student body. In China, on the other hand, the credit system seems to be driven by a desire to rationalize university administration rather than grand visions of the meaning and role of higher education in society.
A second possible explanation for the different manifestations of the credit system in China is quite practical; namely, China’s higher education system is attempting to meet the demands of a growing global economy. For instance, the Chinese Communist Party has stated that the major objective of higher education is to assist the country’s modernization efforts. Chinese educational administrators and scholars have interpreted this mandate to mean that university courses should serve the economy’s demand for skilled labor, and that students should acquire technical knowledge needed to transform China into a modern state; “China needs specialists, not graduates with general knowledge.”
The assumption embedded within this rejection of general education, however, is that the American higher education system, and its particular use of the credit system, was designed after the United States was already an industrialized nation. This assumption is incorrect. As noted, the initial debates concerning the need for general education in the United States began over one hundred and fifty years ago. Certainly, the purported aims of higher education, and thus the use of the credit system, have changed over this time. For instance, from the mid-nineteenth century through the mid twentieth century, many universities did indeed concentrate on preparing students for industrial employment with extensive course offerings in engineering and other applied sciences. However, many of these universities continued to focus on general education, relying on students to make rational and individual decisions regarding their fields of specialization. Although it is certainly correct to note that China and the United States are at different levels of economic development, this should not obscure the fact that “educators in the United States are forever . . . pondering the issue of general education versus specialization and philosophically examining the function of the university.”
A second assumption embedded within this rejection of general education in China is that a credit system, which permits students academic choice, will create lower levels of specialization than a credit system with compulsory courses. From the available evidence, this assumption also seems incorrect. As noted, student choice generally creates incentives for academic departments and faculty members to design specific and new courses relating to student interests and work place demands. A compulsory curriculum is general by nature, targeting every student in the department and preparing them equally and evenly for entry into the field of specialization. An elective curriculum, on the hand, allows the space for students and faculty to concentrate on narrow interests on the cutting edge of technology and research in the field. In the United States, in fact, university laboratories and classrooms are leading the way in experimental research, and many graduates of American universities are prepared to enter their field of professional specialization with experience in the latest methods and knowledge.
D. Implementation of the American Credit System in Vietnam
This is not a paper about Vietnam’s credit system, and therefore the treatment of this subject in the following section is not exhaustive. Instead, the proceeding section will start with several general comments about Vietnam’s initial application of the credit system, and then it will appraise the feasibility of further implementation of the American credit system in Vietnam.
Beginning in 1993 several universities in Vietnam started experimenting with the credit system, including Can Tho University, Da Lat University, and the University of Technology. In theory, within these universities students are permitted to elect several electives, and credit hours are conditionally transferable among different universities. In reality, however, these universities do not offer electives because teachers are resources have not been reallocated, and credits are not readily transferred between different universities. Furthermore, the current application of the credit system in Vietnam does not allow students to elect classes in different departments within a single university, even if these classes are relevant to their areas of specialization. As a result, the only current difference offered by universities offering the credit system, as compared with those that do not, is that students are permitted to study at their own pace, sometimes graduating early and more often graduating in a few extra years. This is valuable. However, universities in Vietnam are not implementing the credit system as a means of promoting an educational vision arrived at through leadership, deliberation, and consultation. Instead, the credit system is an administrative band-aid responding to current criticisms, without substantive impact on curriculum reform. Implementation of the credit system is similar to China’s experiment, though less ambitious.
Understanding the current limitations and future feasibility of the credit system in Vietnam requires more research into the institutional and governance problems of the higher education system in Vietnam. However, one point is clear. Vietnam’s higher education system is far less decentralized than its counterparts in the United States and China. As a result, the incentives and space to develop an educational mission and pedagogical objectives at the university level do not exist, though An Giang University may provide an example of a successful decentralization experiment outside the context of credit system implementation. Without the ability to develop and implement a coherent educational vision at the university level, the credit system will inevitably be viewed as a threat to the status quo by university administrators. The credit system will simply be perceived as a foreign reform which does not produce tangible benefits to the university or its students.
The advantages of implementing the credit system in Vietnam are several and obvious. On an administrative level, the credit system is a tool for rationalizing resource allocation. From the perspective of Vietnam’s efforts at higher education reform, however, this is not the most important objective. Instead, Vietnam must find a road to connect its universities with the bio-chemistry, electrical engineering, and other scientific theories on the cutting-edge of technological innovation, as well as a method of providing student’s with the general education necessary to remain flexible thinkers as new theories and research methods emerge. As noted, universities will play a significant role if Vietnam is to continue its development from an agrarian, to an industrial, to a knowledge based economy and society.
In every country, and in different universities within countries, the credit system’s balance between elective specialization and compulsory general education is based on a specific deliberative process which may be neither appropriate nor relevant to different contexts. Accordingly, if Vietnam is too succeed in using the American credit system as a tool for educational reform, then Vietnamese educational administrators, faculty, and policy makers must create their own educational visions, as well as their own pedagogical objectives underlying these visions. Although adopting the American credit system is a legitimate means to achieving educational reform, transplanting the American educational vision driving the credit system is impossible and inappropriate; for one, there is no unified American educational vision and, more importantly, visions which are transplanted do not create the same sense of urgency and duty as visions which are created. At the university level, Vietnam certainly has a talented core of administrators and faculty to accomplish this task. However, moving forward will require a level of decentralization of autonomy to these individuals.
Vietnam and other successful developing countries, facing the dual pressures of explosive enrollment and quality demands, are examining the U.S. higher education system to discover its secrets. Generally, these countries have focused their attention on a unique administrative aspect of the American higher education system known as the credit system. In the United States, however, the credit system is no system at all; in fact the credit hour has no common definition and the credit system assumes completely different forms at many of the leading public and private universities in the United States.
The true secret of the American system of higher education is its level of decentralization. Within this decentralized system the credit hour is an administrative mechanism for coordinating an individual university’s pedagogical vision. Generally, these pedagogical visions are the product of intellectual debates at the university level about the ideal balance between specialization and general education, as well as the role of the university in the social and individual development of its students. After formulating these pedagogical visions and objectives, the credit system is used to foster competition among and within university departments, and the credit system is employed to create the possibility and incentives for advanced, multidisciplinary, and specialized student research and faculty teaching.
In China and Vietnam, the credit system is being applied as an administrative mechanism to simply count student progression towards a degree. Superimposing the credit system on the existing system of higher education in Vietnam will not produce the expected outcomes and will not create the incentives for quality and flexibility present in American universities. Instead, the meaningful application of the credit system in Vietnam will require educational administrators to produce a pedagogical vision that the credit system is intended to achieve. Implementing the credit system as a method of educational reform will require a system wide approach consisting of planning, goal setting, data collection, implementation, evaluation, and modifications to the curriculum, advisory system, management systems, and throughout the entire university. In summation, Vietnam’s policy makers should remember that the American credit system was neither designed nor implemented in the United States in isolation. Instead, the credit system was the product of a move from compulsory system to an elective system, and the credit system was dependent on other systematic alterations in university governance.
 The Economist, The Brains Business: A Survey on Higher Education (September 10, 2005) (also available at http://adv.queensu.ca/lookingahead/dbdocs/highereducationsurvey.pdf). A Vietnamese language version of this article is on file with the author of this article.
 See World Development Indicators, “Participation in Education” (Table 2.11) (2005). By comparison, between 1991 and 2003 enrollment increased by 15% in the U.S., 40% in France, 66% in Indonesia, 85% in India, 120% in South Korea, and 433% in China,
 Yilmaz Akyüz, Developing Countries and World Trade Performance and Prospects, pg. 45 (table 1.5) (2003).
 Id. at 8 (table 1.1), 27-28 (charts 1.4 and 1.5).
 World Bank, Task Force on Higher Education and Society, Peril and Promise: Higher Education in Developing Countries 69 (2000), available at http://www.tfhe.net/report/downloads/report/whole.pdf. On a per capita basis, universities in the U.S. and other developed countries produce ten times the number of research scientists than developing countries, and a subset of these scientists are responsible for 84% of all scientific articles published in the world, as well as 97% of all patents registered in the US and Europe.
 The Institute’s are rankings are available at http://ed.sjtu.edu.cn/rank/2005/ARWU2005TOP500list.htm.
 The Economist, The Brains Business: A Survey on Higher Education (September 10, 2005) (also available at http://adv.queensu.ca/lookingahead/dbdocs/highereducationsurvey.pdf). A Vietnamese language version of this article is on file with the authors.
 James M. Heffernan, The Credibility of the Credit Hour: The History, Use, and Shortcomings of the Credit System, 44 Journal of Higher Education 61 (1973).
 Charles Elliot, The Elective System (1885), http://www.higher-ed.org/resources/Charles_Eliot.htm. Harvard University’s decision to abandon a required curriculum and adopt the elective system had many opponents, particularly in the Harvard University faculty. For instance, many argued that the elective system could indeed have a great benefit for ambitious and talented students, but lazy students would have a corresponding opportunity to receive an undirected education comprised of the easiest courses in the university. To this criticism, President Elliot and others responded that “the policy of an institution of education . . . ought never be determined by the needs of the least capable students . . . . A uniform curriculum, by enacting superficiality and prohibiting thoroughness, distinctly sacrifices the best [students] to the average.” Id.
 James M. Heffernan, The Credibility of the Credit Hour: The History, Use, and Shortcomings of the Credit System, 44 Journal of Higher Education 63-64 (1973).. Although the federal government’s regulatory role is generally limited to funding incentives, state governments in the United StatesUnited States. exhibit a schizophrenic range of regulatory authority when creating and supervising public universities, many of which are among the best universities in the Like the federal government, prior to the 1950s the state governments provided financing and some regulations, but left university governance to university faculty and administrators. From the 1960s to the present, state educational administration has undergone a process of centralization and re-decentralization. For several interesting articles examining this phenomenon, see Michael J. McLendon, Setting the Government Agenda for State Decentralization of Higher Education, 74 Journal of Higher Education 479 (2003) and Gary Rhoades, Conflicting Interests in Higher Education, 91 The American Journal of Higher Education 283, 304-307 (1983).
 This table is adapted from information provided in James M. Heffernan, The Credibility of the Credit Hour: The History, Use, and Shortcomings of the Credit System (1973).
 Chester Finn, Scholars, Dollars and Bureaucrats (1978).
 Gary Rhoades, Conflicting Interests in Higher Education, 91 The American Journal of Higher Education 283 (1983).
 For an overview of the accreditation system in the United Statessee Judith S. Eaton, An Overview of U.S. Accreditation (2003), available at http://www.chea.org/pdf/overview_US_accred_8-03.pdf; see also the website for the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, http://www.chea.org/. For a survey on the American accreditation system see Volume 50 No. 2 of the Journal of Higher Education (1979).
 Henry Rosovsky, The University: An Owner’s Manual 99-100 (1990).
 Id. at 100.
 Harvard University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Courses of Instruction, 1986-1987, p. 1.
 For instance, the current President of Harvard University, Lawrence Summers, is leading the faculty in yet another review of the core curriculum.
 Henry Rosovsky, The University: An Owner’s Manual 105-107 (1990).
 Michael Agelasto, Educational Transfer of Sorts: The American Credit System with Chinese Characteristics, 32 Comparative Education 69, 70 (1996).
 S. Pepper, China’s Education Reform in the 1980s: Politics, Issues and Historical Perspectives 137 (1990).
 S. Pepper, China’s Education Reform in the 1980s: Politics, Issues and Historical Perspectives 137 (1990).
 Y.L. Zhou, Education in Contemporary China 476 (1990).
 Michael Agelasto, Educational Transfer of Sorts: The American Credit System with Chinese Characteristics, 32 Comparative Education 69, 74 (1996) (noting that in many Chinese universities required to optional courses range from ratio of 9:1 to a ration of 6:4, in other universities the planned system is employed for the first two academic years and the credit system is used for the final two years, in a small number of universities education credits are awarded for working, and universities within special economic zones have an array of experimental policies).
 Michael Agelasto, Educational Transfer of Sorts: The American Credit System with Chinese Characteristics, 32 Comparative Education 69, 75 (1996).
 Y.L. Zhou, Education in Contemporary China 438, 444 (1990); and J.M. Sun, Why the Credit System Meets a Cold Reception in China 12, 23-26 (1990).
 Michael Agelasto, Educational Transfer of Sorts: The American Credit System with Chinese Characteristics, 32 Comparative Education 69, 71 (1996) (citing J.M. Sun, Why the Credit System Meets a Cold Reception in China 12, 23-26 (1990)).
 Michael Agelasto, Educational Transfer of Sorts: The American Credit System with Chinese Characteristics, 32 Comparative Education 69, 71 (1996).