Mr. Chris Jeffery, Dean of British University Vietnam, tells VET's Hai Van about its performance in 2016 and development strategies in 2017.
How did British University Vietnam perform in 2016?
2016 was a transformative year for British University Vietnam (BUV). We started physically building our new campus at Ecopark, which will be ready in early 2018 and bring a state-of-the-art global university campus to Vietnam. It’s about providing a global education, a global passport for students in Vietnam to take on opportunities here and also aboard. And a British education is one of the best international passports to help achieve that goal.
Every student sitting the final exam graduated from BUV and we have had a 100 per cent employment record, with all graduates finding employment or commencing their Masters degree. It’s not only about theory, it’s about practice. We want students to have a strong foundation in theory but also the practical skills needed to fully develop.
Our students are guaranteed to be 100 per cent work-ready when they graduate. They have the opportunity to take on internships from the first year, with over 200 internships on offer. That’s an important part of our focus on practical experience.
After many years in Vietnam, how would you assess the country’s education investment environment?
The Vietnamese Government insists that organizations that want to operate here not only commit verbally but financially as well. As an organization that has achieved that goal and works with the Vietnamese Government, I am very happy about that. Education is a long-term investment, and parents, children, society and businesses want to know that the product or service they are spending time and money on will actually not only be delivered immediately but also be for the long term. We have a $70 million investment strategy in building the new campus and providing the best facilities. It’s very much a long-term commitment.
What potential does Vietnam’s education environment possess?
There are a lot of students and they are very dedicated to learn. Families are very supportive and evaluate education highly. Vietnam and Vietnamese people are looking to further integrate into the global economy and that requires education. We have people who are proud of education and realize how the transformation can be in terms of their family and themselves. It’s an amazing opportunity.
What challenges does BUV face in Vietnam?
There are a number of difficulties. Running a university is very capital-intensive. Operations and investment are very much upfront. We must balance the requirements of the Vietnamese Government and ensure that every decision we make is in keeping with our knowledge of the government and regulations, to guarantee we protect our investors as well as our students. One of the greatest difficulties is recruiting faculty. From the standpoint of international faculty, Vietnam is a country of the unknown. Some people have been on holiday here but it is not a regular workplace compared to Dubai, Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore. Everyone knows about those places and what to expect of you lived there. Vietnam, though, is still an unknown quantity to many people and they do not realize how diverse the culture is, how amazing and how easy certain things are, and what the opportunities for travelling are. So it’s difficult to recruit faculty.
The requirement that teachers hold a PhD or Masters degrees could, I think, be tailored more in terms of ensuring that it’s not just about qualifications, it’s about the quality of the qualifications. Some of the best teachers in the world may not hold a PhD. Some don’t even have a Masters. But they are great teachers. It’s about balancing requirements to get the best people.
What do you think about the trend towards international schools in Vietnam?
Since the early arrival of international programs with degrees awarded by foreign institutions in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) has accredited more than 40 joint degree and/or international study programs, including vocational training. According to MoET figures, over 21,000 local students have been undertaking such study programs nationwide.
BUV’s market research has revealed that some 11 per cent of the 11,000 local high school students wish to study at international universities.
We believe that many large-scale organizations and foreign and local enterprises nowadays are short of highly-qualified graduates in terms of foreign language proficiency and work-readiness.
What are your development strategies for 2017?
Our ambition is to be the best international university in Vietnam. We feel that developing well-rounded individuals, treating them as partners in learning, and providing opportunities and challenges for them will prepare them for the future.
Our strategy is to always develop, to always grow, to always change and focus on students. Vietnam is becoming and will become a global hub of education, providing opportunities for students to come and study in English here in Vietnam from anywhere in the world.
We intend to grow and we intend to diversify the number of schools and faculty we have. We intend to fully utilize the campus and environment we are building at Ecopark to make sure that we contribute to the great future of Vietnam.
If people want an international education, I want them to think: “Hang on. Why should I pay more to get a degree overseas while I can pay here? It’s the same degree. It’s identical. You learn with international faculty in English and get British degrees. Why pay three times as much to get that degree?”