VIETNAM-FRANCE: Partnership to create new university

Vietnam and France have formed a partnership to establish a new university specialising in science and technology near the Vietnamese capital Hanoi. Known as USTH, the university will focus on six strategic multidisciplinary research areas - biotechnology-pharmacology, aeronautics-space, energy, ICTs, materials-nanotechnologies and environment-water-oceanography.

The agreement was signed this month in Hanoi by Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education and Training, Nguyen Thien Nanh, and France's Minister for Higher Education and Research, Valérie Pécresse, who was visiting the Southeast Asian country with French Prime Minister François Fillon.

USTH, situated at Hoa Lac, a high-tech park 30 kilometres from Hanoi, is due to open progressively from 2010 with an eventual student roll of 8,000. A consortium of more than 30 French higher education institutions is working on France's contribution to the university, particularly in matters of governance and study programmes which will follow the Bologna degree structure of three, five and eight years' higher studies.

French involvement in the project dates from June last year when Nguyen asked France for help in setting up a scientific university of international standing. The institution's academic and research staff will be recruited from graduates following a Vietnamese government programme to train 20,000 PhDs, half of them in universities abroad, during the 10 years to 2019.

As part of this effort Pécresse promised places in French higher education institutions for 2,000 Vietnamese doctoral students during the decade. French Ministry of Higher Education and Research figures show that in 2008-09, more than 5,000 Vietnamese students were enrolled in French universities, triple the number in 2001-02 and 11% more than in 2007-08.

While 45% were studying for bachelor degrees, 41% were enrolled in masters courses and 14% in PhDs. Nearly half were taking courses in management, law or economics, 40% were studying scientific and technological subjects and only 13% arts, languages or human sciences.

France is the fourth most popular country for Vietnamese students, after Australia, the US and UK. Vietnamese represent the second largest Asian contingent studying in France, after the Chinese.