AIT Vietnam

AIT Vietnam has gone though significant changes during the past two years. John Shaw reports on the changes.

The previous issue of the AIT Newsletter was edited from Hanoi, where I was working with staff from Save the Children USA and other NGOs on a report writing training course. My last visit had been three years ago, when the Vietnamese government had congratulated AIT on its 40th anniversary with awards to President Armand, then AITCV Director, Jari Backman, and SAV Director Hans Stoessel. Two years ago, Dr. Backman returned to Finland, and I had the chance to appraise how the center had evolved.

AIT Center in Vietnam, now AIT in Vietnam (AITVN) was established in 1993 with support from the governments of Belgium and Finland. It remains AIT’s only branch outside Thailand, and as such, represents AIT’s special relationship with the Government of Vietnam. AIT’s mission in Vietnam is to be an international gateway for technology transfer supporting national development in Vietnam. It accomplishes by providing quality services in human resource and institutional development through postgraduate and short-term training, information services, research and consultancy that are responsive to national needs and are delivered to international standards.

ISE students at AIT Vietnam celebrate Teachers Day 2002 (Wednesday, November 20)

Prof. Nguyen Cong Thanh, former AIT faculty has been Director of AITVN since the beginning of last year. Traveling in from the impressive new Noi Bai Airport with Prof. Thanh, I was struck by the increase in the volume and density of traffic; colleagues later confirmed that this blight of rapid development has caught up with Hanoi in a big way, and the streets of the capital remain poorly equipped to cope. AITVN, by contrast, is an island of calm. But here too, there have been changes, and climbing to the top of the elegant staircase, the door to the main office has mysteriously disappeared. Professor Thanh has remodeled and modernized the entire facility, starting with the staff offices and including all the training rooms. Overall an improvement, with the elegant entrance hall nicely offset against bright efficient offices, four well equipped training rooms, and a computer lab (rather cramped, I thought, but well equipped).

The next thing I noticed was that AITVN has become a Vietnamese training center. Sure, it was still very much AIT: during my seven days there, I met Prof. Nitin Afzulpurkar and Dr. Anulark Techanitisawad teaching on ISE’s masters program, working with their former ISE colleague Joost Duflou, and Prof. Ashim Das Gupta, working on SCE’s Masters in Professional Engineering. More of their work later. But the staff now consists of 33 highly competent local Vietnamese colleagues. Many of these have graduated from AIT, or are studying here part-time; others have graduated from top Australian universities. Within the training sector, and within AIT’s mission, Prof. Thanh’s philosophy is straightforward: he gives professional staff the freedom to develop courses and market them, and so long as the market responds, he is satisfied.

The training program impressed, but what has really taken off is the two-stage masters degree program. Pioneered originally in 1994 by ISE – and modeled to some extent after the SAV program that predated it by a year – this program under AIT’s semester system will involve students studying for one semester in Hanoi and two semesters at AIT in Thailand. The model has now been expanded to include an IT program comprising three fields of study: Computer Science (CS), Information Management (IM) and Telecommunications (TC). SCE has more recently followed with its Master of Professional Engineering (MPE) Program in Civil Engineering.

Staff from Save the Children USA and Ha Tinh Province in training, November 2002.

Since 2000, AITVN has also collaborated with SOM in offering an International Executive MBA (iEMBA) program for middle to senior level managers in Vietnam. So far, three batches have been organized. The program curricular is designed to be experiential, and covers four main fields: International Business issues, Functional issues, Corporate issues and Job-related issues. It is expected that the iEMBA programme will develop strongly in Hanoi, and expand in Vung Tau and in Ho Chi Minh City in the coming year.

This will be facilitated by an intended AITVN’s expansion to Ho Chi Minh City. In June this year, an MOA was signed with the Institute of Scientific Water Resources to locate a branch of AITVN in the southern city. The collaboration was approved by the HCMC People’s Committee in September, and an MOU between the two organizations for collaboration in education and training followed on November 19. The Institute will make available for AITVN up to 3000m2 in a ten-storey building due to be completed in 2005.

And the training? Seven hours a day for seven straight days, with an onsite visit to Save the Children USA the following day. Tough, but as faculty colleagues in ISE would attest, training and teaching tend to be like this. But the company was great, and lunch on Hanoi’s streets a festival for the taste buds.

AIT in Vietnam website: www.ait.ac.th/ait/aitcv/