Moratorium could delay British-Vietnam university

A recent announcement by Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of a moratorium on new joint university projects with foreign governments could delay the transformation of an institute in Da Nang province into a new Vietnam-UK university.

But Vietnam’s Vice-minister for Education and Training Bui Van Ga said even without such expensive university projects, the country is keen to build up more joint degree programmes with foreign universities and develop transnational education, or TNE, where overseas universities validate and oversee degrees delivered at Vietnamese universities.

In a bid to improve research collaboration and its international rankings, the Vietnamese government has set up three international research universities with the governments of France, Germany and Japan, funded with overseas development assistance from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Japanese government respectively.

A Vietnam-UK university was to have been the fourth under the scheme, variously known as the Model Universities or Universities of Excellence scheme.

The Vietnam-UK Institute for Research and Executive Education was set up in Da Nang province a year ago, under the auspices of the University of Da Nang, ostensibly as the first phase of a Vietnam-UK university with international standards of teaching and research.

“The Vietnamese government does not have enough money to build up more Universities of Excellence between now and 2020,” Vice-minister Bui said.

“Right now we cannot get additional funds from the international development banks for other Universities of Excellence. So we will start with the Vietnam-UK Institute for Research and Executive Education. This will grow, and when we have the right financial conditions we will open a Vietnam-UK university,” he told University World News.

The Vietnam-UK university, a university with Russia and any other international projects would only proceed on condition of receiving overseas funds. “Till now we have not had any overseas development assistance from the [UK] government or other international banks for the Vietnam-UK university,” said Bui.


In an indication of the scale of funding required, Bui said each existing University of Excellence requires about US$200 million in funding over five years, with some US$180 million coming from development banks and US$220 million from the Vietnamese government.

For example, the Vietnam-Japan University approved last year was up to an estimated investment of US$330 million – some US$200 million in official development aid from the Japanese government, US$30 million from the Vietnamese government and around US$100 million from Japanese companies and organisations.

Although Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training had originally earmarked some US$7 million to US$8 million for the institute in Da Nang, UK sources said only about US$500,000 would be available in 2014-15, mainly for infrastructure development. A fully fledged university would require some US$200 million to US$250 million according to a UK Foreign Office estimate in October 2014.

Vietnam has said it will focus on extra funding of its two national universities in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in a bid to have at least one ‘world-class’ national university in the top 200 international rankings. There will be more funding for the two national universities for joint degrees and English taught courses.

Bui and Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh were in London on 11 September for the first Vietnam-UK cooperation forum organised by the British Council and Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training.

Vietnam is keen to improve the quality of higher education in the country, in particular to ensure its graduates can compete in the larger market of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN Economic Community which is due to come about by the end of this year, increasing labour mobility between ASEAN countries.

ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

With this in mind, Bui said Vietnam would build up the number of transnational education, or TNE, programmes with UK institutions. More than 430 TNE programmes are established in Vietnam, 55 of them with UK universities.

“We will be able to experience higher education of developed countries to improve the quality of our system. In the future we would like to develop more TNE programmes, so that more Vietnamese students can study the UK system of education within Vietnam and save money,” said Bui who pointed to the huge cost of studying in the UK and other developed countries.