The 6th of October marked the final step for Hung Viet Ngo in the journey to obtain his Doctor of Philosophy Degree. I was very enthusiastic to see how this process works, since I have never witnessed a PhD Defence before. After I entered the hall at 5 minutes to 11 AM, there was an amalgam of traditions and symbols specific to a PhD graduation; the 9 members of the Academic Committee were wearing Academic robes, while the candidate was wearing an elegant tuxedo with a white shirt and a matching bow tie. The ceremony started with the official entrance of the committee, led by the Rector Magnificus and then the bell was rang which marked the official start of the Defence which lasted for 1 hour precisely.
Firstly, Hung introduced his paper and the main topic of it, “Community participation in urban housing and infrastructure upgrading projects in Vietnam”. He based his research on 4 case studies, which are 4 Vietnamese cities. Thus, Hung tried to prove that community participation requires support from local authorities, which is only possible in cases of effective governing and leadership. More precisely, an essential factor which leads to community participation is transparent communication, there are positive aspects of communal participation, while the most important is the satisfaction of the community.
Moreover, Hung clearly explained how state owned land has a positive effect on community participation. The state directs the implication of the community, however an essential part of this implication is to provide more involvement of the community in the decision process. This is especially valid in developing and leftist countries, where the direction of urban development is dictated by the centralized power and often people are promptly conforming to the norms and projects of the state.
Following that, the Academic Committee asked Hung several questions about his paper, some of them straight forward and some of them more challenging. I particularly remember this question with regards to the similarity of the case studies and whether they can be seen as representative on the global scale. Even if it initially seemed as difficult to answer, Hung explained it very well and convinced the audience and more importantly the Committee about the high validity and reliability of the paper and its applicability in a global context.
After the hour passed, the bell was rung again to symbolize the official ending of the Defence of the paper. The Academic Committee moved into a room next door to the hall and discussed the quality of the paper and the defence. Finally, the 9 members of the committee came back into the hall and after a brief moment of tension they said the phrase that will change Hung’s life forever: “I grant you the title of Doctor in the customary honour”. Congratulations Dr. Hung Viet Ngo!