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November 22, 2013
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

SRU opens Vietnam universities talks

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - The wheels are in motion, and within 18 months, Slippery Rock University could have formal faculty and student exchanges with a number of universities in Vietnam.

Philip Way, SRU provost and vice president for academic affairs, met recently with a number of Vietnamese university and government officials to begin formalizing plans for such exchanges and other related programs.

"We had been holding conversations with the International Academic Partnership Program before going to Vietnam. IAPP helped us get our priorities in order and develop potential programs that would be beneficial to both us and any university partners in Vietnam," Way said.

The IAPP, originally funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, is a major initiative of the Institute of International Education's Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education. The organization seeks to increase the number of international partnerships between higher education institutions in the U.S. and those abroad.

"It was a week of productive meetings," Way said. "We found the people engaging, helpful and enthusiastic, and I think we can work out exchange programs that will be mutually beneficial."

"The IAPP organizes a number of partnership programs for India, China and Vietnam annually and you have to make an application to get involved. The application is really an effort to get a university to think strategically about how it wants to establish partnerships with a foreign country and its universities," Way said. "We spent six months on the focal point of this plan and the culmination was our recent study tour to Vietnam."

"We went to a dozen universities in five days, so it was hectic, but I have pages and pages of notes," he said.

He said the IAPP had helped in strategic planning for potential exchanges as well as providing both mentoring and advice behind the scenes. The organization helped arrange the study tour and offered an array of background information and resources.

Since returning, Way has already met with SRU faculty to consider program specifics and new exchange possibilities including 2+2, 3+1 and even four-year joint programs.

He also sees the possibility of faculty from Vietnam coming here, teaching and taking courses, then returning to Vietnam to use their enhanced teaching skills.

"They could use the teaching skills and the pedagogy we use. There is a lot of enthusiasm there for getting away from rote learning that is so common in their country," he said. "They are interested in our forms of active and engaged learning, rather than traditional lectures, and they are looking to employ that kind of teaching in their classrooms."

"Of course, the government's ministry of education, and even the universities, won't allow outside universities to simply come in an set up massive online programs. They are looking for true cooperation and exchanges. They are also looking for outside universities to establish programs that would 'train the trainer' in both degree and non-degree programs," he said.

Way said he saw possibilities in helping their faculty improve their abilities in speaking and writing English, as well as possibly areas in better understanding the concepts behind teaching, such as those offered SRU students studying to be school teachers in the College of Education.

For SRU, programs promoting English as a second language, tourism management, science, computer science, including network security, and environmental studies are all up for consideration.

"We found, in some cases, they are interested in having their faculty come here to improve the way in which they teach," he said. One university with 30,000 of its 50,000 students involved in online courses asked SRU about programs to help them improve their online education delivery," Way said.

"Our College of Education already plans to offer three courses about how to teach online, so this could be a perfect match," he said.

He said a stumbling block could be the costs, pointing out that income is low in Vietnam, and not conducive to having a child study overseas. He said initial programs would most probably involve faculty exchanges.

"Public universities in Vietnam have an average tuition of between $200 and $300 per year. Vietnam National University is able to charge more in some disciplines," he said, "so working out a student exchange will be a delicate issue."

He said private institutions in the country have higher tuition rates, and higher yet for some selected disciplines.

"Faculty earn, maybe $1,000 per year, with many taking a second or third job to survive," he said.

Way said a number of other U.S. and international universities have already worked out exchange agreements with Vietnamese university and the results are being seen.

Among the universities involved in the various plans are those located in Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City.

He said some work in recruiting students directly from high school was also possible.

Way was to have been accompanied by Kurt Schimmel, dean of SRU's College of Business, Information and Social Science, but the dean became ill during an earlier part of the trip and was forced to return hone early.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.