U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Marc E. Knapper joins key representatives from Indiana University, USAID, and three partnered Vietnamese universities to launch the project. [Image: USAID / Flicker]

Indiana University Partners with Leading Vietnamese Universities Through USAID

The Mekong ASEAN Asia

Signed September 2021, the Partnership for Higher Education Reform (PHER) aims to improve Vietnam's premier institutions and enhance Vietnam's higher education system in accordance with international standards and USAID’s Higher Education Program Framework. This project was announced by US Vice President Kamala Harris during her visit to Vietnam last August.

This proved to be a significant milestone as the first-ever Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ministry of Education and Training of Vietnam (MOET). Under this MoU, Indiana University (IU) has been granted $14.2 million by USAID to support inclusive economic opportunities for 150,000 Vietnamese students in support of a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam as a vital US partner. The project is led by Indiana University’s O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs partnering with leading universities in Vietnam: Vietnam National University - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam National University - Hanoi, and the University of Da Nang.

The project is structured around four major programs: governance, teaching and learning, research, and university-industry collaboration. The core initiatives will enhance university governance and finance processes, give faculty training in creating innovative courses, enable research collaborations and expanded research capacity, and provide guidelines and incentives for successful university-private sector partnerships.

In addition to these four key areas, cross-cutting strategies centered on higher education policy advocacy and reform, technology and digitalization, and women empowerment will help ensure the project's long-term viability. The program will also assist the Vietnamese government in examining the present higher-education policy environment and exploring options for institutionalizing improvements. IU and partners will generate proposals to increase efficiency and foster a culture of innovation inside the Vietnamese higher-education system through policy research, workshops, and seminars delving deeply into critical policy concerns.

In 2022 according to the USAID Foreign Aid Explorer, Vietnam is ranked third in US foreign aid obligations in the Mekong region. With education being a critical area for Vietnam’s future, the country is also the 4th largest source of international students in the United States, with a total of 21,631 students in the United States. The country also boasts of the second highest of university partnerships in the Mekong region with a total of 14 partnered universities. Thus, Vietnam is the third most popular destination in Southeast Asia for US students studying abroad

Narupat Rattanakit is a Pericles Institute Fellow and Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington. He graduated with a BA from Thammasat University in 2020 and is pursuing his MA in US Foreign Policy and National Security with a regional focus in Southeast Asia.