May 2015 issue

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ASEAN advances

Closer economic integration in the ASEAN region is set to reap benefits for the international education sectors in countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, as Matthew Knott discovers.

As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) moves towards closer integration – the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) – in 2015, institutions in Vietnam are positioning to build upon already burgeoning international expansion, while established regional academic hubs also stand to benefit (see box).

At FPT University in Hanoi, Vietnam, international recruitment is already gathering pace, says Hoang Thi Thu Huong. “In 2014, we already increased Asian students by 50 per cent, especially from Thailand, Brunei and Japan.” She states FPT is becoming globally recognised for its international curriculum and teaching methodology. “Our campus is an English-speaking environment.” She adds FPT received five stars in its QS ranking for teaching and engagement, and four stars for facilities, access and employability.

In Ho Chi Minh City, “Ton Duc Thang University (TDTU) offers international programmes as part of its strategy to enhance international education in the school as well as Vietnam’s education in general,” says Tran Trong Dao. “TDTU is now considered one of the fastest-growing institutions in Vietnam.”

TDTU offers three specialist strands for international students: international exchange programmes; summer camps; and specialised courses for groups of international students. The programmes provide overseas students with excellent opportunities to learn our Vietnamese language, experience the cultural and academic life, says Dao. The majority of current international students hail from Europe and Asia, particularly the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Denmark, Taiwan, Japan and Laos. “Currently, TDTU has one of the most modern and well-quipped campuses in Vietnam,” he says, also highlighting a QS five-star rating for this as well as for inclusiveness.

At the National Economics University (NEU) students on the International Bachelor degree (IBD) programme “have the opportunities to explore, experience and even embed in the Vietnamese business environment and culture through our various activities”, says Le Huong Lan. “As part of the training curriculum, the International School regularly organises field trips and speaker sessions in which students can meet and talk with business leaders and economics experts.”

The IBD, established in 2005, was the first cooperative education programme in Vietnam awarding a British degree, says Lan. The international cohort is growing yearly, she adds, “and we are expecting an influx of Japanese and USA students this year”.

Le Bao of Duy Tan University (DTU) is keen to highlight the Vietnamese welcome. “DTU has a dynamic and warm-hearted staff at the International Student Service Center that always takes good care of international students.” Bao, continues, “DTU has standardised and advanced programmes offered in English, with materials acquired from prestigious universities in the US, such as Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania State University and California State University.”

The marriage of quality and affordability is a key attraction, says Bao. “DTU has high-quality programmes...with affordable tuition fees of only US$5,000 per year.” Lan at NEU concurs, “Tuition fees and living expenses in Vietnam are among the cheapest in Southeast Asia, so international students receive good value: international-standard education at an economical price.”

Tapping into the global appeal of Vietnam’s beauty and culture, Student Exchange Vietnam is offering customised short-term study programmes and internships of various majors for university/high-school students. Mo Nguyen says the benefits include English preparation, practical site visits, cultural exchange and 24/7 support. Though most current students are from the USA and Japan, ASEAN youths are increasingly interested.

Indeed, many are keenly anticipating AEC. “We have seen ASEAN integration as not only the opportunity, but also the motivation for TDTU upgrading all aspects of our school,” says Dao. At NEU, Lan predicts more intra-regional study. And Bao confirms the number of ASEAN students at DTU is already rising because of AEC.

Agents are assisting Vietnam’s growth. “We use agents to attract international students,” confirms Lan. FPT is developing university partnerships worldwide, working with agents and advertising globally, says Huong. Similarly, Mo at Student Exchange Vietnam states, “We advertise ourselves and work with agents. We are looking for agents in ASEAN and Europe, especially the UK and Scandinavia.” Student exchange programmes with partner universities have proved fruitful for DTU, says Bao, adding “We are looking for agents in Africa and Europe.” matthew@hothousemedia.com

The ASEAN education hubs

Within the ASEAN region the powerhouse hubs are undoubtedly Singapore and Malaysia, already attracting large numbers of international students and scores of branch campuses.

Navitas has a presence with Curtin Singapore and Pip Lapelms, Corporate Affairs Manager, relates Singapore is a well-established financial hub with over 7,000 multinational financial institutions and corporations. “This enables students from neighbouring countries to obtain a recognised foreign degree in the heart of Southeast Asia. At Curtin’s Singapore campus, we offer business programmes including accounting, banking, finance majors which are popular choices.” Almost half of the Curtin Singapore’s students are international, with most from Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, says Lapelms.

Last year, UK-based Heriot-Watt University opened a new UK£35 million (US$52.5million) campus in Putrajaya, Malaysia, (see photo above) building on a long-standing academic relationship with the country, says Fiona Duff, Malaysia Marketing Officer. “International students at Heriot-Watt University Malaysia benefit from studying for a high-quality, British degree on a purpose-built campus with superior facilities in a stunning lakeside location.” She continues, “We offer a range of professionally relevant undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes in key growth areas for the ASEAN region,” and explains that courses in Petroleum Engineering and Actuarial Science have been popular. Asia is the predominant source region, and Duff adds the university’s global network of agents plays a key role in informing students about the new campus.

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