Institutional Prospects and Challenges to Transdisciplinary Approach in the Knowledge Production System of Vietnam: Reflections on a North-South Partnership Project

  • Nguyen Minh Doi Ho Chi Minh City Open University
Keywords: Transdisciplinarity, Institutional Interplay, Knowledge Production System, Vietnam


Drawing on neo-institutionalism in policy studies, this paper aims to demonstrate that transdisciplinarity is a new logic that could challenge the existing institutional logic of the knowledge production system in Vietnam. This institutional interplay is examined by analyzing the institutional response, interactions, and choices of stakeholders participating in an EU Erasmus+ Capacity Building Project. The analysis shows that the transdisciplinarity concept can be used as a potential framework for the develop- ment path of the dominant logic characterized by the shift from a traditional statist to a market-oriented model for knowledge production. Nevertheless, there are challenges like power relations in the interplay processes among actors who try to reproduce existing institutional logic and those who support transdisciplinary logic, as well as regarding relevant decision-makers to make institutional choices. The discussion shows that when applying transdisciplinarity, one should consider the motivation and barriers regarding state control, transdisciplinary readiness, hybrid models, funding, and experience.

Author Biography

Nguyen Minh Doi, Ho Chi Minh City Open University

Nguyen Minh Doi is a lecturer at the Faculty of Economics and Public Management, Ho Chi Minh City Open University, Vietnam. His research interests include public policy, local governance, and development.


Bärnthaler, R. (2020). Conflict, controversy, compromise, and compression: The pragmatics of transdisciplinary (development) projects. Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 13(2), 193-210.

Bui, P. L. (2016). Vietnam: The demand for change and the direction taken. In C. S. Collins, M. N. N. Lee, J. N. Hawkins, & D. E. Neubauer (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Asia Pacific higher education (pp. 641-652). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

DiMaggio, P. J., & Powell, W. W. (1983). The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. American Sociological Review, 48(2), 147-160.

Dannecker, P. (2020). Transdisciplinarity ‘meets’ power structures: Challenges and experiences of a capacity building project on transdisciplinarity. Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 13(2), 175-192.

Emirbayer, M., & Mische, A. (1998). What is agency? The American Journal of Sociology, 103(4), 62-1032.

Fligstein, N. (1997). Social skill and institutional theory. American Behavioral Scientist, 40(4), 397-405.

Friedland, R., & Alford, R. R. (1991). Bringing society back in: Symbols, practices, and institutional contradictions. In W. W. Powell & P. J. DiMaggio (Eds.), The new institutionalism in organizational analysis (pp. 232-263). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Gehring, T., & Oberthür, S. (2004). Exploring regime interaction. In A. Underdal & O.R. Young (Eds.), Regime consequences: Methodological challenges and research strategies (pp. 247-279). Dordrecht: Springer.

Gibbons, M., & Nowotny, H. (2001). The potential of transdisciplinarity. In J. Thompson Klein, W. Grossenbacher-Mansuy, R. Häberli, A. Bill, R. W. Scholz & Welti, M. (Eds.), Transdisciplinarity: Joint problem solving among science, technology, and society (pp. 67-80). Basel: Birkhäuser.

Gibbons, M., et al. (1994). The new production of knowledge: The dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies. London: Sage Publications.

King, R., & Bjarnason, S., Edwards, K., Gibbons, M., Ryan.Y. (2003). The university in the global age. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Lawrence, T. B. (2008). Power, institutions and organizations. In R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, T. B. Lawrence, & R. E. Meyer (Eds.). The Sage handbook of organizational institutionalism (2nd ed., pp. 170–197). Los Angeles: Sage.

Lexico Dictionaries. (2020). Definition of Knowledge. Lexico. Retrieved from

Linder, S. H., & Peters, B. G. (1990). The design of instruments for public policy. In S. S. Nagel (Ed.), Policy theo- ry and policy evaluation: Concepts, knowledge, causes, and norms (pp. 103–119). New York: Greenwood Press.

Meyer, J. W., & Rowan, B. (1977). Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony. American Journal of Sociology, 83(2), 340-363.

Minh, T. T., & Hjotrsø, C. N. (2015). Relational dynamics in the multi-helices knowledge production system: A new institutionalism perspective. Globelics-global network for economics of learning, innovation, and competence building systems No. 08. Aalborg University: Department of Business and Management. Retrieved from

Nicolescu, B. (1997). The transdisciplinary evolution of the university condition for sustainable development. Paper presented at the International Congress of the International Association of Universities. Bangkok, Thailand: Chulalongkorn University. 12 - 14 Nov. 1997.

North, D. C. (1990). Institutions, institutional change, and economic performance. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Oberthür, S., & Gehring, T. (2006). Institutional interaction in global environmental governance: The case of the cartagena protocol and the World Trade Organization. Global Environmental Politics, 6(2), 1-31.

Oliver, C. (1991). Strategic response to institutional processes. The Academy of Management Review, 16(1), 145–179.

Pache, A., & Santos, F. (2010). When worlds collide: The internal dynamics of organizational responses to conflicting institutional demands. Academy of Management Review, 35(3), 455–476.

Scott, W. R., Martin, R., Peter, J. M., & Carol, A. C. (2000). Institutional change and healthcare organizations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Seemann, F., & Antweiler, C. (2020). Linking European and Southeast Asian transdisciplinary knowledge production: Lessons learned by doing evaluation. Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 13(2), 243-259.

Seo, M. G., & Creed, W. D. (2002). Institutional contradictions, praxis, and institutional change: A dialectical perspective. Academy of management review, 27(2), 222-247.

Steiner, G. and Posch, A. (2006). Higher education for sustainability by means of transdisciplinary case studies: an innovative approach for solving complex, real-world problems. Journal of Cleaner Production, 14(9), 877-890.

Tuy, H. (2019). Xin được nói thẳng (To Be Honest). Hanoi: The Gioi Publishers.

Underdal, A. (2004). Methodological challenges in the study of regime effectiveness. In A. Underdal & O. R. Young (Eds.), Regime consequences: Methodological challenges and research strategies (pp. 247-279). Dordrecht: Springer.

UNESCO. (2014). UNESCO Education Strategy 2014–2021. Retrieved from

van Vught, F. A. (1996). Isomorphism in higher education? Towards a theory of differentiation and diversity in higher education systems. In V. L. Meek, L. Goedegebuure, Kivinen, O. & R. Rinne (Eds.), The mockers and mocked: Comparative perspectives on differentiation, convergence and diversity in higher education (pp. 42-58). Bingley, UK: Emerald.

Webster, E. (2016). Building a sociology for the Global South: Assessing a South-South research network. In Keim, W., Çelik, E., & Wöhrer, V. Global knowledge production in the social sciences: Made in circulation (pp. 153-172). London; New York: Routledge.

World Bank. (1999). Knowledge for development: World development report 1998–99. Washington, DC: The World Bank and Oxford University Press.

Zietsma, C., & Lawrence, T. B. (2010). Institutional work in the transformation of an organizational field: The interplay of boundary work and practice work. Administrative Science Quarterly, 55(2), 189-221.

How to Cite
Doi, N. M. (2020) “Institutional Prospects and Challenges to Transdisciplinary Approach in the Knowledge Production System of Vietnam: Reflections on a North-South Partnership Project”, Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 13(2), pp. 229-242. doi: 10.14764/10.ASEAS-0041.
Current Research on Southeast Asia