“The British Council provided strong support for the creation of the VNUK Institute for Research & Executive Education, Da Nang University, a watershed moment in tertiary education development for the region. Central Vietnam now has a recognised international research institute, with the institute laying the groundwork for a proposed Vietnam – UK University,” according to Dr Duong Mong Ha, former VNUK Director and senior specialist for higher education accreditation.
Da Nang University has a long history of collaboration with the British Council. The two organisations worked together on launching the United Kingdom Education Exhibition in Da Nang in 2006, helping students to explore opportunities for study in the UK and providing access to Vietnam-based programmes that grant UK qualifications. Through the British Council, Da Nang University has also been fostering partnerships with UK universities and Sterling Group, an organisation representing 22 UK leading technology research universities. Since 2010, the foremost researchers of Sterling Group have been travelling to Vietnam.
Sterling Group academics have contributed to the partnership through teaching and the delivery of academic reports, creating opportunities for managers, instructors, researchers and students of the member colleges of Da Nang University to meet. This has helped to establish international networks and provide access to innovative information, contemporary methodology and other achievements in the realm of science and technology.
“These are underlying efforts that have created a strong foundation of trust between the British Council and Da Nang University,” said Dr Duong Mong Ha. When the Ministry of Education and Training nominated Da Nang University to work with the British Council in 2010 on the development of the Vietnam – UK International University, that trust proved its worth. The existing mutual respect enabled both sides to work closely together, and allowed the project to proceed successfully. Dr Ha was tasked with working directly with the British Council and a UK partner – Aston University – to develop a project proposal. The project was designed in two phases: setting up the VNUK Institute for Research & Executive Education, and expanding the Institute with the ultimate goal of creating a Vietnam – UK University in Da Nang with academic support from UK partners.
“While I have worked on the development and implementation of numerous projects with various partners from Australia, the USA, Japan, France, the Netherlands, Canada and the UK, the Vietnam – UK University project is the contribution that I am most happy with,” Dr Ha said. “Through this project, myself and university leadership have had the opportunity to maintain contact with our British partners, attend international educational conferences, visit and work at British schools, and discuss the development of partnership programs for research and training, among others.”
Now in its fourth year since inception and as the first public international tertiary institution in the region, the VNUK Institute for Research & Executive Education has played a key in role in internationalising higher education in central Vietnam. The Institute is also in its fourth year of recruiting students majoring in computer science, business administration and biomedical science. Professor Ha notes that students learn a wide range of practical skills, develop a forward thinking and open mindset, and speak very good English. The institution’s partner, Aston University, is among the top 10 research universities in the UK both in terms of graduate employability and the long term professional success and prosperity of its alumni – there are plenty of millionaires amongst its graduates. Similarly, VNUK remains committed to providing training and pursuing partnerships that are responsive to the demands of industry and international job markets. Again, it was the British Council that connected the dots, supporting VNUK in partnering with top British businesses like Tate & Lyle Plc., for example, with the firm pledging to grant full or partial scholarships for VNUK graduates.
“In the entire process of preparing for VNUK, I was very impressed with Mr Robin Rickard, the British Council Country Director from 2009–2013, who was so dedicated and spent so much time and effort working with me personally on the Vietnam – UK University project,” Dr Ha recalled. “Unfortunately, Robin was not in Vietnam to witness the initial success of the project. He moved to a new post four months before the official decision to create the Vietnam – UK Research and Training Institute was made public.”
The Vietnam – UK International University still lies ahead. While Dr Ha will not have the opportunity to continue his involvement, he hopes that the success of the VNUK Institute for Research & Executive Education will provide impetus for the establishment of the Vietnam–UK International University, providing Da Nang city and central Vietnam with a world-class research university.
“There is a strong foundation trust between British Council and the University of Da Nang.”