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USAID awards $4.65mn grant to Fulbright University Vietnam

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded a US$4.65 million grant to Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV) to help the school reach its goal of international accreditation.

The award signing ceremony, hosted at FUV’s Crescent Plaza campus in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday, was attended by U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink, USAID Vietnam mission director Michael Greene, and FUV president Dam Bich Thuy.

This new two-year assistance grant to FUV follows successful USAID funding of $7.2 million from 2017 to 2020.

While previous U.S. government support from USAID and the State Department helped FUV to build its initial foundations, from establishing its institutional governance structure to developing its academic program and providing financial assistance to incoming students, the new grant will support investments that advance the university’s goal of international accreditation. 

USAID will also help FUV develop executive education and other programs so the university may begin serving Vietnam’s professional community and labor force.

Additionally, the grant will support FUV’s efforts to develop shared value partnerships with the Southeast Asian country’s technology, manufacturing, and service industry sectors.

“I am proud of all that we have accomplished together, and I am confident that the coming two years of this USAID-FUV partnership are going to deliver long-term impacts to this university and benefits to Vietnam,” Ambassador Kritenbrink was quoted as saying at Monday’s ceremony in a USAID press release.

On behalf of the school, FUV president Thuy said she was grateful to continue receiving support from USAID to develop Fulbright University Vietnam, not only in institutional development but also in gaining international recognition.

“With this grant, FUV will continue to lead the way in building a rich and innovative teaching and learning environment in Vietnam, for Vietnamese students,” Thuy was quoted as stating.

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Sticker shock: Saigon school boards caught off guard by whopping tree upkeep bills

School management boards across Ho Chi Minh City are scrambling to readjust their budgets to account for the massive cost of reinforcing the trees on their grounds – a necessary expense to ensure student safety after a tree in a schoolyard fell and killed a student earlier this year. 

“I was shocked when Ho Chi Minh City Greenery Parks Co. Ltd. quoted us VND237,494,400 [US$10,284] to trim, prune, and chop the trees in our schoolyard,” said one member of the management board from Marie Curie High School.

“The high price caught both us and the students’ parents off guard.”

Skyrocketing costs

“There are dozens of trees on our grounds. Many of them are quite old and some have even passed the centennial mark,” said Nguyen Thi Que Van, vice-principal of Marie Curie High School.

According to Van, maintaining the trees is no simple task.

“Marie Curie High School is designed with an arched doorway, which means we can’t just drive a crane-truck onto the grounds. With some of our trees measuring more than 40 meters tall, getting workers that high without heavy machinery is extremely complicated,” she explained.

Ho Chi Minh City Greenery Parks initially offered a VND258 million ($12,000) price to maintain the school’s trees, but eventually agreed to slightly cut it to VND237 million.

Nguyen Thi Hong Chuong, principal of Nguyen Thi Minh Khai High School in District 3, said her school is facing the same issue as Marie Curie, with chopping down dead trees, planting new ones, trimming, and pruning eating up large chunks of the budget.  

An urgent need for public funds

The principal of a high school in downtown Ho Chi Minh City had more on her mind than just the cost of maintaining trees.

“Greenery maintenance should be regulated by the city, not just assigned to the principal,” she pointed out, adding that educators simply do not have the expertise to efficiently manage landscaping projects.

Instead, the principal suggested that the municipal Department of Construction charge specialized officers with coordination with schools to achieve better outcomes in maintaining their greenery.

Another high school principal in the city said the school contracted a private firm to periodically check and prune its trees.  

“After the incident [where a falling tree] killed a student at Bach Dang High School in District 3,  we invited a state agency which oversees greenery to give consultation and document the condition of our trees, but the agency charges much more than private firms to trim and prune them,” the principal said.

To soften the blow of greenery upkeep on school budgets, the principal suggested that the state provide full or partial funding to schools so that larger portions of their own funds can be channeled into education-focused initiatives.

Improper upkeep

In late May, Ho Chi Minh City’s Department of Construction began working with relevant agencies to examine greenery management and care at 21 schools, concluding that the schools are not pruning trees correctly and many trees on the grounds have truncated branches which endanger the vitality of the trees.

According to the department’s report, tree branches can split when cut improperly and are at risk of falling and hurting students.  

Another issue the report identified is the way trees are planted at city schools. 

Most trees are grown in a ring with brick-walled edges built up from the ground to provide seats for students. This method creates a confinement, making it hard for their root system to branch out.

Others are planted in areas with little light, which can predispose them to become slanted and inhibit their growth.

In response to the schools’ funding request for tree maintenance, Le Hoai Nam, deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Education and Training, noted that the agency was collecting opinions on tree maintenance and protection duties from schools.

“Afterward, it will cooperate with the Department of Construction and the Department of Finance to rectify the situation.”

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UK open to receive int’l students despite COVID-19: ambassador

Editor’s note: Gareth Ward is the UK ambassador to Vietnam. In this piece sent to Tuoi Tre News, he reassured international students that UK universities look forward to welcoming students from all over the world, including from Vietnam, in the 2020/21 academic year despite disruptions caused by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the last two years, I have had the pleasure to meet thousands of students, at undergraduate and graduate level, all across Vietnam.

I have been struck by the great energy and talent, as well as the openness to learning in an international context.

It has also become clear to me how Vietnamese people recognise the UK as a world leader in quality education.

I know from my own experience of study in the UK how international students enrich the learning environment in the UK – socially, culturally and academically.

This educational exchange helps grow life-long friendships, develop strong networks, nurture business and build political and diplomatic bridges.

In recent years, Vietnamese students have been choosing in large numbers to study in the UK, and to study for UK joint degrees in Vietnam.

This year, had COVID-19 not happened, I am sure that students in Vietnam, from 1st to 11th grade, would be enjoying their summer holidays. Most of the students would be taking a well-earned rest after finishing their exams.

The current crisis has disrupted this longstanding routine. Pupils remain hard at work, preparing for their upcoming end-of-year exams. Uncertainty hangs over plans to study abroad.

Let me reassure you that the UK is open to receive international students.

Applications for study in the UK in 2020/21 are open now and our universities look forward to welcoming students from all over the world and, including from Vietnam.

UK universities are among the best in the world, with four in the top 10 global rankings (Source: QS World University Rankings). They are leading research, including to understand and combat COVID-19.

A UK education opens doors. UK graduates are among the most desirable in the world.

Vietnamese students in the UK are seen in a supplied photo.
Vietnamese students in the UK are seen in a supplied photo.

During this particularly turbulent time, we are committed to ensuring a welcoming and safe experience for international students.

We want to ensure that each student feels comfortable when studying in the UK, maximising their education experience.

Our recent survey of UK universities confirms that 97% will provide in-person teaching at the start of term this year, with 87% also stating that they will offer in-person social opportunities to students, including outside events and sporting activities, all in line with government and public health guidance. (Source: Study UK – British Council)

We also understand the importance of being able to get post-study work experience in the UK.

That is why international students present in the UK before April 6, 2021 will still be eligible to join the Graduate Route, even if you begin your course online before travelling to the UK in person.

This will enable students to benefit from two years’ work experience in the UK after graduation.

We want Vietnamese students to join the wider British alumni network in Vietnam, and make the UK the best place to continue your studies, visit or do business.

The UK government, working closely with universities, has gone to great lengths to ensure the utmost flexibility for those planning to study in the UK from Autumn 2020, adopting measures from visa regulations to learning models and student safety.

Following guidance from the UK government to prioritise the needs of all students in education in the UK, universities have adopted a range of tailored support services to students, including those regarding mental health.

Although admissions processes and modes of teaching might look slightly different this year, the UK’s universities continue to recruit and encourage international students to apply, even when travel is complicated.

Universities are showing great flexibility, responding to the individual needs of each student.

In the absence of being able to travel overseas, students can study remotely and need only apply for a visa when able to leave for the UK.

We have seen some fantastic and innovative examples of high-quality online learning being delivered by institutions across the UK, and the sector is already working hard to prepare learning materials for the summer and autumn terms.

Vietnamese students in the UK are seen in a supplied photo.
Vietnamese students in the UK are seen in a supplied photo.

I am also pleased to announce that the UK government’s prestigious Chevening Scholarship scheme will open for applications on September 3, 2020.

I am always delighted to meet these incredibly bright and inspiring scholars and see their contributions to Vietnam’s development.

Chevening is open to all disciplines and I encourage anyone looking to develop their leadership ability and make a positive change in Vietnam through pursuing a Master’s degree in the UK to apply.

2020 marks the 10-year anniversary of the UK-Vietnam strategic partnership, of which education is a cornerstone.

During this milestone year, I and our growing team at the British Embassy in Hanoi and the British Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, look forward to further deepening relations between our two countries, especially in education with a vision towards our mutual growth and sustainability in the post-COVID-19 world.


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Vietnamese universities, province secure $422mn in WB credit

The World Bank (WB) has approved a total credit package of US$422 million to support a Vietnamese university development project and to help one Mekong Delta province confront climate change.

The WB Board of Executive Directors on Wednesday agreed to grant the credit to assist three Vietnamese universities and to build a climate-resilient city in the Mekong Delta province of Vinh Long.

The credit was supplied by the International Development Association (IDA).

The three universities involved in the university development project include Vietnam National University – Hanoi (VNU-Hanoi), Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City (VNU-HCMC), and Da Nang University, which will receive $295 million.

The remainder of the credit will be used to help the Mekong Delta province of Vinh Long deal with climate change.

The $295 million credit is meant to improve the three universities’ teaching and research capacity.

The university development project will make a certain contribution in addressing some main challenges that the country’s higher education system has faced, the WB said in a press release.

Thanks to the new budget support, the universities will have chances to modernize their own infrastructure and make their campus greener and available for digital transition.

Of the $295 million credit, the project for the VNU-Hanoi will cost $125.18 million, consisting of a $100.87 million credit package from the WB and the corresponding capital of $24.31 million from the Vietnamese government.

The VNU-Hanoi will spend the new credit building many new educational facilities on a 37.5-hectare area within its 1,000-hectare campus.

The new facilities include 18 buildings, each with one to eight floors, in addition to classes, libraries, laboratories, sport centers, wastewater collection centers, and drainage systems.

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