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Moving towards international integration in higher education

Released at: 10:07, 24/04/2019

Moving towards international integration in higher education

Photo: DAAD

Mr. Stefan Hase-Bergen, Head of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)'s Regional Office Hanoi for Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, tells VET about international integration in Vietnam's higher education sector.

by Nghi Do

Mr. Stefan Hase-Bergen

How do you view the prospects for international integration in Vietnam’s higher education sector?

Vietnam is focusing on different models in the process of international integration in higher education. German universities nurturing inbound and outbound mobility, developing international curricula or fostering English as a medium of instruction are some of the many ways towards international integration. Transnational education with international institutions in Vietnam is also one of the models being pursued.

Universities like the Vietnamese-German University (VGU) in southern Binh Duong province are a good opportunity to conduct high-quality teaching and also research with German partners - ministries as well as universities - in a structured and systematic way. They can function as “lighthouses” in Vietnam’s higher education landscape, providing positive examples of how to successfully develop a research-oriented autonomous university. At the same time, the process of international integration is being fostered by Vietnam cooperating with many German universities, by using German curricula, and by learning from German professors teaching at VGU.

What challenges have such programs faced in Vietnam?

The challenges in major projects, for example VGU, include:

  • Sustainable financing from partners, but especially from the Vietnamese Government and other sources in Vietnam;
  • Recognition by all sides that such a cooperative university is in the end a Vietnamese university and thus part of Vietnam’s higher education sector;
  • The requirement that curricula not only be “borrowed” from international partners but also be adapted to Vietnam’s needs and especially the needs of the labor market;
  • The shortage of qualified lecturers and professors. In the beginning, universities often have to work with “flying faculties” - lecturers coming from international partners. But it is essential that in the long run there is a sufficient number of well-qualified Vietnamese lecturers who are able to teach and conduct research at a high level;
  • The need for good communications between institutions and Vietnamese ministries, so the “lighthouse” model can be implemented and others can learn from such a project.

What should the government and relevant ministries do to boost international integration?

The Vietnamese Government and relevant ministries can and need to support universities with funding for international integration (for example scholarship programs for international mobility and funding for international cooperation programs). But the main actors in the process of internationalization are the universities themselves. They need to be convinced about the opportunities from acting internationally. They also need freedom in all academic affairs, especially with international partners.

When a Vietnamese university and its international partner design a new study program and then must wait for months for a decision from the ministry, the cooperation may fail in the end. Granting more autonomy is an important milestone in successful international integration and the Vietnamese Government is already moving in this direction.

How would you comment on information transparency in Vietnam’s higher education sector, which international institutions need when investing and cooperating with local partners?

Most international partners do not speak or read Vietnamese, so they are in need of English-language information. But this is hard to find. For this reason, one of the main objectives of DAAD in Vietnam is to collect information on higher education development in Vietnam and communicate it to German universities. Information and statistics beyond the basic level are also hard to find in Vietnamese. We are certain that more and better information would further enhance the process of international integration by Vietnamese universities.

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