Obama to open first American-style private university in Ho Chi Minh City next week

By Vuong Duc Anh, May 16, 2016 | 11:03 pm PT
Obama to open first American-style private university in Ho Chi Minh City next week
The Fulbright University Vietnam project received its investment certificate on July 10. Photo by VNA
The Vietnamese government approved the establishment of the Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV) yesterday, the country’s first American-style nonprofit private university. U.S. President Obama is scheduled to open the university next week.

The government has approved in principle the university’s legal status, its own seal and bank account, while putting the school’s education and training program under the management of the Ministry of Education and Training, according to a decision signed by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam. The university will also be supervized by the city's People’s Committee.

The new university will be built on the foundation of the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program, a collaboration between the Harvard Kennedy School's Vietnam Program and the University of Economics, which is "widely regarded as Vietnam's preeminent school of public policy", according to a statement by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School.

“Harvard’s over two decade-long collaboration with the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program has been of tremendous value,” said Archon Fung, the Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and the Acting Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School in the statement. “We look forward to contributing to the enhancement of Vietnam’s higher education sector through future collaborative endeavors with FUV.”

“Congress and the administration understand that FUV represents a new, forward-looking chapter in the ongoing reconciliation between the US and Vietnam,” said Thomas Vallely, a senior advisor for Southeast Asia at the Ash Center, chairman of the Trust for University Innovation in Vietnam, an independent nonprofit corporation established to coordinate the project and mobilize resources for the new university in the statement. “FUV will embody American values including academic freedom, autonomy, meritocracy and transparency.”

The Fulbright Economics Teaching Program supports three core initiatives, including the Master in Public Policy program and executive education, research, into complex policy issues confronting Vietnam and policy dialogue, through discussion with Vietnamese policymakers and participation in the public policy discourse in Vietnam, according to the program's website.

The transition from FETP to a more ambitious university was first mentioned officially in a joint statement issued by President Barack Obama and former Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang in 2013, and later was reiterated during US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Vietnam in December the same year, according to FETP.

President Obama plans to open the university during his first visit to Vietnam early next week. 

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