UCLA Ed & IS Collaborate with Vietnam National University to Build Premier Graduate School

VNU-HCM leadership plan to develop a graduate school of education in Ho Chi Minh City, based on the UCLA model.

A delegation of leaders from Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City (VNU-HCM) have held several meetings with UCLA Ed & IS administrators and faculty as well as UCLA’s central administration as part of a joint effort to develop and establish a new graduate school of education in Ho Chi Minh City, based on the UCLA model. The delegation recently participated in the Paulo Freire Institute’s international summer program, held from July 17- August 13.

Under the leadership of UCLA Ed & IS Dean Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, Distinguished Professor and Associate Dean for Global Programs Carlos Alberto Torres, and colleagues from across the UCLA campus, this collaborative effort builds upon a previous campus-wide memorandum of understanding between UCLA and Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City. This summer’s meetings and developments are a follow-up to a week-long visit by VNU-HCM representatives in March, which included a number of meetings to discuss long term research collaborations between the two universities, tours of UCLA Lab School and UCLA Community School, and a one-day workshop organized by UCLA Ed & IS. The visitors included VNU-HCM Vice President Huynh Thanh Dat. Contact with VNU-HCM was also supported by the visit of Dr. Anne Vo, associate director of the University of California’s Educational Evaluation Center, to VNU-HCM in 2013.

Dr. Torres says that the creation of a premier graduate school of education at VNU-HCM is characteristic of “a university in transition,” a term that he would also apply to UCLA and its commitment to excellence and relevance in the era of globalization.

“At UCLA, we are ourselves studying how the University is changing, adapting to the challenges and possibilities of the 21st Century in the context of globalization processes, and how UCLA contributes to global learning, research, and service,” says Torres. “Building a premier school of education and applying our learning, technology, knowledge, and experience to a democratic and multicultural dialogue with our Vietnamese colleagues is an opportunity of a lifetime that will take us a decade or more, but we are ready for the challenge.

“We will be building new bridges for understanding and collaboration between Vietnam and the U.S., countries that have gone through a war which deeply affected the entire world,” Torres continues. “We do hope that this new collaboration, which builds on four years of previous collaborations between both universities in other areas, will enrich and expand our interactions, help to position both universities at the forefront of educational reform and knowledge in Asia and internationally, and make sure that our mantra of social justice education – the mantra that defines UCLA Ed & IS – is also understood, valued, and implemented in Vietnam and other emerging countries in Asia.”

A joint steering committee of UCLA and VNU-HCM faculty and administrators has begun work toward the establishment of a graduate school of education at VNU-HCM, projected to open in 2017- 18. Their tasks include preparing a proposal for the development of a new graduate school of education, upgrading and building VNU-HCM’s capacity through professional development of faculty and staff, formulating strategies for fundraising for the school and its programs, and preparing to launch the first Master’s Program on Educational Leadership.

Dr. Le Quang Minh, director of the Institute of University Governance and senior advisor to VNU-HCM President Phan Thanh Binh, says that the university’s plans for a world-class graduate school of education aligns with the Vietnamese government’s ambitious education program of Fundamental and Comprehensive Education Reform.

“For a long time, schools in Vietnam have been under a very rigid top-down system, where most of the decisions are made from above,” says Dr. Minh. “Schools in Vietnam will now have more and more autonomy [and] school leaders will need to strengthen their capacities as strategists, planners, and policy and decision makers, not just low-level administrators as they are functioning now.”

Nguyen Thanh Thuy, director of VNU-HCM’s Quality Assurance Center of International University, says her classroom observations at UCLA Ed & IS have shown her the deep connections to research that faculty exhibit in their lectures, as well as how that knowledge has broadened the research capacity of students.

“The group discussions between instructors and students are an excellent learning environment in which people from different backgrounds and different levels of the learning process can work and learn from each other,” Dr. Nguyen says. “The practices are emphasized as well as the theories that will help my colleagues and me acquire both knowledge and experience that will be applicable not only for our implementation of a Graduate School of Education at VNU-HCM, but also for our own professional development.”

Dr. Duong Nhu Hung, vice rector of VNU-HCM’s University of Economics and Law, linked the teachings of Freire, a social theorist and philosopher, to the most pressing needs in Vietnamese education today. He says that building a premier graduate school of education will be a key to the success of the nation’s current educational reform programs.

“Over the last three decades, Vietnam has experienced profound changes in its economy,” says Dr. Duong. “While the country has become wealthier, the demand for education and training has increased. Children from poor families have more difficulty in acquiring a good education, and entrenched interests and bureaucratic rigidity represent big obstacles to educational reform. Despite these challenges, the Vietnamese government is committed to the continued reform, because education is not only seen as a core Vietnamese value, but is also considered an opportunity for social and economic advancement.”

Dr. Le Thanh Long, director of External Relations atVNU-HCM, says that while scientific research in Vietnam has shown moderate achievement, many college graduates lack the skills to compete in the current job market.

“In this era of globalization, the competitiveness of a nation depends on the creativity used in the dissemination of knowledge,” says Dr. Le. The role of the university as an engine that creates new knowledge has become more and more important for our country’s growth. The model of a Graduate School of Education at Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City, would present the most practical and innovative solutions in reforms for Vietnamese higher education.”

Nguyen Hoang Kim Phuong is manager of administrative affairs at the Center for Pre-doctoral Training at VNU-HCM. She says that her visit to UCLA this summer has provided her with a vision of the “unique and dynamic institution that strives for expertise and engagement” that she hopes to help establish at VNU-HCM.

“From my personal perspective, UCLA is one of the most prestigious institutions in the world that challenges itself in terms of excellence in academics, research, and values,” says Ms. Nguyen. “Thanks to this great experience, as well as the mutual respect demonstrated at UCLA by individuals from every corner of the globe, I have been shown the true concept of globalization and insight into how to [create] a Graduate School of Education back home in Vietnam.”

Discussions between faculty and leadership during the delegation’s recent visit to UCLA Ed & IS this summer aimed at advancing questions of relevance for the development of a proposal outlining issues such as governance structure, administrative roles and capacities, as well as divisions and programs for the new graduate school of education at Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City.

The following links are comments by each of the five delegates during their visit to UCLA in August.

Dr. Le Quang Minh, Director
Institute of University Governance and Senior Advisor to President Phan Thanh Binh


Dr. Nguyen Thanh Thuy
Head of the Center of Education Quality Management, VNU-HCM International University


Dr. Le Thanh Long, Director
Department of External Relations


Dr. Duong Nhu Hung, Vice Rector
VNU-HCM University of Economics and Law


Ms. Nguyen Hoang Kim Phuong, Manager of Administrative Affairs
Center for Pre-doctoral Training Center


Special thanks to UCLA Broadcast Studio


Above: Delegates from Vietnam National University visited UCLA Ed & IS in an ongoing collaboration to establish a premier graduate school of education in Ho Chi Minh City. L-R:  Ms. Nguyen Hoang Kim Phuong, Manager of Administrative Affairs, Center for Pre-doctoral Training Center; Dr. Nguyen Thanh Thuy, Head of the Center of Education Quality Management, VNU-HCM International University; Dr. Le Quang Minh, Director, Institute of University Governance and Senior Advisor to President Phan Thanh Binh;
Dr. Duong Nhu Hung, Vice Rector, VNU-HCM University of Economics and Law; and Dr. Le Thanh Long, Director, Department of External Relations