For more than 15years, vietnam has worked to develop a quality assurance (qa) system as part of its effort to reform higher education. The governments effort seeks to respond to widespread criticism over the quality of training in higher education. The appropriation of western qa mechanisms and the effectiveness of the qa system as it has been implemented, however, is still viewed with scepticism. This paper reports on a study of academics and qa practitioners perceptions of quality assurance. Documentation and in-depth interviews were used in the study. The findings show that qa remains a new concept in the country, which appears to have promoted a compliance-driven approach to mandated policies rather than a system that promotes academics engagement in continuous improvement. Moreover, the appropriated mechanism may be seen as contradictory to the values respected by academics and rooted in a confucian society. 2019, 2019 Association for tertiary education management and the lh martin institute for tertiary education leadership and management.