Foreign Universities and Higher Education in Vietnam

Posted by Written by Binh Truong Reading Time: 5 minutes

After regulatory changes to foreign investment in the education sector and the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Vietnamese students studying at foreign universities in Vietnam or in joint training programs has witnessed significant growth. Here’s why.

After the introduction of Decree No. 86/2018/ND-CP in August 2018 regulating foreign investment in the education sector in Vietnam, regulations for foreign-funded schools were eased to allow more students to enroll.

This sector also received a boost because of the COVID-19 pandemic, whereby a lot of students and parents chose to stay and study in Vietnam through international universities with in-country campuses rather than going abroad.

As a result, the demand for international universities and global training programs supported by them has been increasing rapidly – about 25,000 Vietnamese students were taking part in study programs connected to foreign universities, as of November 2022, according to the Ministry of Education and Training.

This is creating a lot of opportunities for foreign higher education institutions (HEI) to enter the Vietnamese market.

Why demand for in-country foreign education is growing

There has been an increase in demand for education provided by international universities within Vietnam or joint training programs between foreign universities and local institutions in Vietnam. This is due to a number of factors.


Instead of going abroad and living far away from families, students can have the opportunity to access comparable standards of foreign education within Vietnam. Parents don’t have to worry about their children when they move to a new country, and students may avoid mental health problems associated with being isolated and living away from home.


Students can save on living expenses because in general, the cost of living in Vietnam is not too expensive compared to other countries in Europe or developed Asian countries. Also, the tuition fees in foreign universities or joint training programs, although quite high compared to Vietnamese institutions, are still less than in home campuses abroad.

International environment and qualifications

Students have the opportunity to study in an international environment with high quality teaching and can get an international diploma. Most of the training content is provided by partner universities and taught by foreign lecturers with the same techniques they use in their home countries. Also, with the curriculum and learning environment entirely in English, students can also develop their professional English skills.

Foreign higher education in numbers

There are two forms of partnership between Vietnam and overseas universities: international branch campuses and joint training programs between Vietnamese and foreign HEIs.

As of December 31, 2021, Vietnam had 408 joint training programs with foreign HEIs. Of these, 186 programs were between private higher education institutions and international partners, while the remaining 222 were HEIs licensed by the Ministry of Education and Training.

It should be noted that this number does not include 103 transactional education (TNE) programs between Vietnam and Australia, France, Germany, and Japan. TNEs are institutions whereby students study in Vietnam but receive decrees from the university’s home country.

Countries with which Vietnam has joint training programs

Country Quantity
United Kingdom 101
United States 59
France 53
Australia 37
Republic of Korea 27
Taiwan 18
Malaysia 18
New Zealand 16
Belgium 10
Germany 10
China 10

Source: Policy update: Higher Education in Vietnam and partnership with overseas universities, Ministry of Education and Training

That said, the Ministry of Education and Training has pointed out that up to 62 percent of foreign partners in these programs are not ranked highly or do not feature in the top 1000 universities worldwide. This raises questions about the teaching quality of these programs, and subsequently, the young human resources they produce.

Regulations for foreign investment in higher education in Vietnam

In 2018, the National Assembly passed Law No. 34/2018/QH14 amending the Law on Higher Education to facilitate foreign investors to establish a university by one of two methods:

  • Establish a regular business and then transition said business to a private higher education institution; or
  • Directly invest in the establishment of a private higher education institution.

Decree 86/2018/ND-CP also added additional conditions for establishing joint training programs at the higher education level and establishing an international branch campus. These amendments aim to enhance the competencies of lecturers and administrators of foreign higher education institutions to meet set teaching standards.

In 2019, the government released Decree 99/2019/ND-CP, which became effective on February 15, 2020. This directive adds criteria for foreign higher-education institutions in establishing campuses in Vietnam alongside regulations for university boards and to what degree these institutions have autonomy.

This new legislation also grants greater authority to higher education institutions. They can now choose their academic activities, personnel, training, and educational structure, as long as they do not violate local laws and regulations.

The Ministry of Education and Training also issued Circular No. 38/2020/TT-BGDDT on joint training with foreign countries at undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels. For undergraduate level, curriculum provided in these programs must be recognized by an education authority in their home country.

Key international universities in Vietnam

International University Programs in Vietnam

University Ranking in 2023  Linking university in Vietnam Education fields Institution fee, study time
RMIT 301 – 350 RMIT Business, media, technology, language US$12,600/year (3 years)
Swinburne 301 – 350 FPT Business, media, technology US$6,300/year (3 years)
Staffordshire 1201 – 1500 BUV Business, technology US$10,000/year (3 years)
Sunderland   National Economics University, Banking Academy Business, technology US$4,000/year (3 years)
Troy 1201 – 1500 Vietnam National University, University of Science and Technology, Saigon University of Technology Business, technology US$3,300/year

Source: International University Programs in Vietnam

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT)

RMIT Vietnam was established in 2000 and has since developed into one of the top universities in the country. This university has two modern campuses in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, as well as an English language center in Danang. It provides courses in languages, design, fashion, business, technology, and communication. RMIT claims that 96 percent of its graduates are able to find a full-time position within a year of graduation.

Swinburne University

Swinburne Vietnam is a joint international university program between Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology and FPT University. Graduate degrees are awarded by Swinburne in Australia and meet the same criteria as those awarded to students studying down under.

British University Vietnam (BUV)

BUV is the first and only international university in Vietnam that is directly awarded by the University of London and the University of Staffordshire. All of BUV’s lecturers are of an international standard. It claims to provide more than 2,000 internship opportunities for students, to have 400 companies in its partner network, and that 98 percent of its students find employment after graduation.

Australian HEIs in Vietnam

Australian universities are well represented in Vietnam, with education a key Australian export. RMIT, for example, is one of the oldest foreign institutions in Vietnam and has become a well and truly established brand in higher education.

Australia’s Swinburne University is also making headway in Vietnam. Its partnership with Vietnam’s FPT is raising the quality and standard of higher education on offer. This partnership may also serve as a blueprint for other institutions entering into partnerships with local institutions.

On that note, Australian vocational training providers are also making their presence felt. Box Hill TAFE and Chisholm Institute have both been active in recent years, reaching out to local vocational education providers and looking for fresh opportunities to expand their footprint.

These developing synergies are only set to grow stronger as the full benefits of Vietnam’s updated Law on Higher Education are realized.

Higher education in Vietnam moving forward

Laws and decrees in Vietnam, with respect to higher education, in recent years have focused on promoting the establishment of joint training programs with foreign HEIs. This reflects a positive attitude toward developing higher education and cooperating in training initiatives with other countries in the world.

These laws, however, may face some tightening moving forward in order to ensure the quality of their outcomes with respect to the quality of the human resources these arrangements and institutions produce.

In the meantime, the current framework is much more conducive to foreign investment than it has ever been before and there are ample opportunities for qualified foreign investors to participate in this potentially very profitable market.

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