Last month saw British University Vietnam commence construction of a $70 million campus in the northern province of Hung Yen’s Ecopark township, on an area of 6.5 hectares. Construction will last until 2016. This campus would provide training programmes on international business administration, marketing, accounting finance, business finance and banking finance. British University Vietnam is also planning to co-operate with a Malaysian partner to build an educational and training establishment in the central city of Danang.
Also last month, Singapore’s KinderWorld Education Group, one of Vietnam’s biggest foreign educational and training investors, officially inaugurated its Pegasus Mixed Educational Development including Pegasus international college and Singapore international school in the central city of Danang. The group is currently operating 15 educational and training establishments in Vietnam, with different brand names like SIS, KIK and SVIS, providing bilingual training courses for pupils and students of all ages, in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, and the southern provinces of Vung Tau and Binh Duong.
“KinderWorld’s projects are quite significant to Vietnam, contributing to improving the country’s educational and training quality from kindergartens to schools, and also to Vietnam’s development of a high-quality workforce,” said Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen The Phuong.
Figures of the Foreign Investment Agency (FIA) under the Ministry of Planning and Investment showed that many foreign investors like British University Vietnam and KinderWorld were eager to invest in Vietnam’s educational and training sector.
A fertile land
The agency reported that up to May 20, 2015, Vietnam had 213 foreign-invested valid education and training projects, registered with $822 million. 24 nations and territories have been implementing education and training projects in Vietnam, including nations with a modern educational and training sector like the UK, the US, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Switzerland and Germany.
Saint-Petersburg State University of Economics (SUE) is also one of many foreign universities wishing to implement projects in Vietnam.
“We are considering a plan to open a university in Vietnam, with prioritised cooperation with Vietnam’s universities in training and scientific research,” said SUE vice rector for Science Alexander E. Karlik. “If this plan came true, this university would be a branch of SEU. We are also seeking Vietnamese partners to discuss training programmes in finance, business administration, oil, gas, shipbuilding and logistics.”
At a recent international education and career exhibition in Hanoi, representatives of various universities from the UK, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Sweden, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and the US all expressed interest in cooperating with Vietnamese enterprises and educational establishments in order to open their universities in Vietnam.
London School of Commerce, which established a regional office in Vietnam in 2006, currently wants to found a university in the country as soon as possible.
Sue Park, associate researcher at South Korea’s Institute of APEC Collaborative Education, said that the institute was seeking local partners wishing to cooperate with South Korean education companies. Currently this institute has deployed educational programmes with the Ministry of Education and Training and several universities.
A representative from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University also said they wished to co-operate with Vietnamese institutions.
“Some 400 Vietnamese students are studying in our university. Vietnamese people’s incomes are rising while the students’ demand for overseas studies is also growing steadily. That’s why we come here,” he said.
Vietnam is also home to a $150 million project to build the US-Pacific University, a branch of the American Pacific University. A Japanese-backed $68.9 million project to build Nagai Vietnam Centre and a $68 million project by British Virgin Islands’ Oasis Development Management Ltd are planned for Hanoi. Australia’s RMIT has been driving education projects worth a total of $41 million in Vietnam. Additionally, Japan’s Tokyo Medical University will co-operate with some partners to build a medical university in the northern province of Hung Yen to train 1,500 students annually.
However, according to FIA, the majority of foreign educational and training projects are focused solely in big cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Danang. The average size of these projects remain relatively small. Vietnam’s improper policies to call for foreign direct investment in the education and training sector make these projects less appealing for foreign investors.
According to the Vietnam Business Forum’s Education and Training Working Group, the current legislation contains no provisions that would encourage foreign and local investors already operational in Vietnam to re-invest their profits into the country, instead of diverting them overseas. The legal procedures for granting licences for new investment projects are the same as those required of re-investment projects. For example, if a successful university wished to expand its campus into a new location, it would have to endure the same application process as would a new investment. The same applies to foreign language training centres and vocational training centres.
The group also said that the new legislation recently circulated is much more complicated than before.
Additionally, there are no specific legal instructions for the launching of new programmes by foreign-invested higher education institutions. Most of the provisions on education have been developed for Vietnamese education institutions. Due to incomplete legislation for foreign investment in education, foreign investors must refer to the legal regulations which apply to Vietnamese education institutions. This creates daunting obstacles for foreign investors attempting to operate in Vietnam.