Since 2014, Professor Anh Tran of the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs has been working with senior government officials in Vietnam to highlight how the Vietnamese government could better serve its citizens. In 2021, those efforts led to the United States Agency for International Development awarding the Partnership for Higher Education Reform to Indiana University to support inclusive economic opportunities for nearly 150,000 Vietnamese students in support of a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam as a vital U.S. partner.
The five-year, $14.2 million project tapped Tran and Teshome Alemneh, associate vice president for international research and development and head of IU’s Office of International Development, to be the leaders of the effort. The project is partnering with Vietnam National University—Hanoi, Vietnam National University—Ho Chi Minh City, and the University of Da Nang.
“For Vietnam, modernizing higher education will upskill its labor force, allowing Vietnam to enter more high-tech industries and achieve higher economic growth in the future,” said Tran, who also serves as an economic advisor to the prime minister of Vietnam.
The project’s strategy centers on four key programs: governance, teaching and learning, research, and university industry linkages. Core activities will strengthen university governance and financial systems, provide faculty training in designing state-of-the-art courses, facilitate research collaborations and expanded research capacity, and develop guidelines and incentives for prosperous partnerships between universities and the private sector.
In addition to the four focus areas, cross-cutting strategies around higher education policy advocacy and reform, technology and digitization, and gender empowerment will support the long-term sustainability of project outcomes. The initiative also supports the Vietnamese government in examining the current higher-education policy environment and seeking ways to institutionalize reforms.
Over the past year, the program has conducted co-creation workshops and facilitated iterative discussions with key stakeholders in Vietnam and the U.S. to generate feedback and input towards improving proposed activities, strategies, and goals. The PHER also designed the Leadership Capacity Development Program, a program to develop the capacity of leaders and administrators from the Vietnamese partner universities by providing them opportunities for experiential learning, exposure, and interaction with experts and practitioners. In addition, it established the Vietnam International Academic Network across those same universities.
The PHER is also hiring new team members to expand its efforts.
“We’re building a team of about 10 people to facility higher education reforms,” Tran said, “We will need to hire a chief of party, four project managers, two project officers, and a communication officer. This is a rare opportunity to have the resources to build such a team for higher education reforms in Vietnam.”