International integration of Vietnamese Universities mostly occurs through individual initiatives, whereas so far many Universities lack a strategical approach. During a workshop in Danang hosted by the DAAD in cooperation with the Vietnam International Education and Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Education and Training 60 university representatives as well as with experts from Germany discussed how to strategize and apply internationalization.

Although for centuries Vietnamese universities and institutions of higher education were influenced in turn by Chinas Confucianism, former colonizer France and the former Soviet Union, the idea of internationalization is fairly new, being around for 15 years only. The international integration of the Vietnamese society as a whole is seen as an important factor in the socio-economic development of the entire country. Vietnamese universities play an integral part in this process, as Dr. Pham Quang Hung, director of the Vietnam International Education and Cooperation Department (VIED) of the Ministry of Education and Training, stated in his opening speech during a workshop on the topic of internationalization organized by DAAD and VIED.

Titled “What has international integration to offer for universities in Vietnam”, the workshop on the 19th and 20th of April in Danang, Central-Vietnam, welcomed about 60 representatives from Vietnamese universities, including 23 university leaders and 22 leaders of International Cooperation Departments (ICD). During group discussions, they referred to ten dimensions of internationalization introduced by deputy DAAD secretary general Christian Müller. In Vietnam, internationalization is mainly understood as the mobility of Vietnamese students into developed foreign countries (last year +17% went to Germany), obtaining international guest lecturers as well as importing curricula from international universities, most popular being universities with a good position in international rankings. Depicting further dimensions of internationalization therefore proofed to be of great value.

One of the workshop’s main goals was to compile the strategic significance of international integration as efforts regarding internationalization at Vietnamese universities most often are based on fragmented individual initiatives. In four groups strategic goals of internationalizations, their main protagonists and questions of financing were discussed, as well as the importance of the relationship between universities, their internationalizing activities and the Ministry of Education and Training, focusing especially on the ongoing process of university autonomy (e.g. the crucial question of how long the Ministry takes for approving study programs in cooperation with international partners).

The groups also discussed operative questions such as the implementation of internationalization endeavors or how to approach resistance. Some lecturers at Vietnamese universities for example, are against publishing research in the English language, claiming that results of research should be presented first and foremost for Vietnam and therefore in Vietnamese.

The workshop offered a rare, but important and highly regarded opportunity for all participants to exchange knowledge on the topic of internationalization. Vietnam neither offers a conference for university presidents nor a forum for ICD leadership. Consequentially, the participants expressed their wish for a regular exchange during meetings such as this.

As a next step another workshop was requested, focusing on learning and speaking about the development of concrete internationalization strategies. Because so far, they barely exist at Vietnamese universities.

(Stefan Hase-Bergen)