Good morning Vietnam

Tuan Anh Vu and Tze-Ay ChuahA scholarship program for Vietnamese PhD students is not only attracting top talent, it’s playing a vital role in strengthening UTS’s engagement with Vietnam.

Asia is the powerhouse of the 21st century and UTS is part of its educational growth engine. The UTS-Vietnam International Education Development (PhD) Scholarship is equipping Vietnamese students with invaluable skills in their chosen field before returning home.

By its very nature, the PhD scholarship attracts the best scholars prepared to endure the rigours of postgraduate studies in the pursuit of excellence.

As Tze-Ay Chuah, Director of UTS International, says: “As support for scholarships programs are generally about capacity building, many Vietnamese scholarship holders at UTS are lecturers from universities in Vietnam. They will return to their universities after finishing their studies. This form of collaboration also helps strengthen their education systems.”

The UTS-Vietnam International Education Development (PhD) Scholarship consists of about 15 students today, with some choosing to study engineering, renewable energy, agriculture and social media. The scheme began in 2010, but UTS has enjoyed a long association with Vietnam via other programs.

The UTS-Vietnam International Education Development (PhD) Scholarship complements what UTS refers to as its singular vision – to be a world-leading university of technology.

It’s part of the UTS strategic plan. It’s forthright. It’s bold. UTS makes clear that realising its vision relies on “attracting high quality students, academics, researchers and administrators – people who are passionate about knowledge, learning, discovery and creativity”.

Vietnamese students meet the UTS vision, Chuah says, because they are “hard working, conscientious and very driven”. They have to be, otherwise they wouldn’t be invited to participate in the scholarship. As Chuah says: “The Vietnamese students who receive a scholarship usually have to go through rounds of selection hurdles before they even begin their studies at UTS.”

A student’s experience

One student currently doing his PhD under the UTS scholarship scheme is Tuan Anh Vu. Certainly not content to rest on his laurels, Vu also holds a Master of Arts in Journalism after graduating from the UTS/ AusAID scholarship program in 2009.

In Vietnam, Vu is a university lecturer, specialising in online journalism and communications. He returned to Australia in August 2011 to start his PhD on social media and expects to finish it within the next three years. His thirst for more knowledge in online media and journalism was behind his return to UTS.

Vu says returning to Australia exposes him to mass saturation daily press, in printed form and online, and television and radio. Living in Sydney enables him access to the inner workings of the Australian media and senior journalists within the industry. During the interview, he often mentions “freedom of the press” in Australia – as opposed to Vietnam, where, he says, censorship is never very far away from publication in the country with a population of about 90 million people.

Vu says about 30 million Vietnamese have access to the internet.

For Vu, the lure of UTS is opportunity. “I want to improve my knowledge by doing more research on social media and communications,” he says. “The online world is the future for global communications. And, I want to get a better degree.” What appeals to Vu is the internet is still in its infancy. Internet growth appears unlimited. On the other hand, daily newspaper circulations across the world are declining in favour of online news platforms. Studying internet capability and social media in Australia enables him to make comparisons with the online world in Vietnam. Vu says access to social media content in Vietnam is far more restricted.

“Even blogger material in Vietnam is censored,” he says. “So studying at UTS improves my knowledge, which hopefully I can pass on to university students when I return to Vietnam. At UTS, I’m studying in the practical world.”

UTS’s engagement with Vietnam

According to Chuah, UTS engagement with Vietnam involves capacity building at three strategic levels. The first is supporting the Australian Government via its AusAID program. “UTS has been receiving AusAID students for a long time,” she says. “Each semester we welcome these excellent scholars. The scholars who have graduated and returned home are now contributing to the development of their country.”

The second strategic level involves UTS collaboration with relevant Vietnamese Government agencies, such as the Ministry of Education and Training. “This collaboration supports the Vietnamese Government’s goals to increase educational quality for its labour force,” she says. “UTS has a direct role in receiving these scholars, who will return home to their universities and play an important role in Vietnam’s educational and socio-economic development.”

The third strategic level involves UTS collaboration at local Vietnamese government levels. AusAID contributed $48 million to the Mekong Delta Transport Improvement Project, which includes upgrading 315 kilometres of rural roads and 118 bridges.

“Support of bilateral projects, such as these, are in line with the key objectives of the UTS internationalisation plan,” Chuah says. She highlights that collaborating with Vietnamese government agencies in various programs can enable UTS to make a difference in people’s lives and their communities.

“Together we can help boost Vietnam’s growth and aspirations,” Chuah says. “UTS has been engaging with the region [Vietnam] for a long time now in one form or the other. We want to raise educational awareness, so the Vietnamese can be part of history in this Asian Century.”

Story by Anthony Black
Photography by Anthony Geernaert