Vietnam is becoming more outward-looking and wants to collaborate with the wider world in many areas, including research and education. As most international academic work is conducted in English, this is a key skill not only for students but also for lecturers and researchers.
For students, English gives them the opportunity to study and work abroad, or with international companies, improving their employability.
The need for improved English skills for academics is twofold. Firstly, they need to be able to deliver their subjects in English through English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) courses. Secondly, if they want their work to be recognised on the international stage, they need to be published in international English language journals, participate in international conferences and take part in collaborative research projects with colleagues overseas.
More universities are developing EMI courses but there are concerns about the quality of teaching and access to appropriate teaching materials, as well as linguistic challenges for both academics and students. There is a risk if academics are not sufficiently trained and supported in the transition from delivering content in Vietnamese to delivering content in English. It could lead to course content being be diluted and the overall quality of education compromised.
In order to support Vietnam through this transition phase, the British Council is working with several university leaders and academics to consider how positive and sustainable change can be achieved in the teaching and learning of subjects such as finance, economics, law and engineering through English. To develop the skills of the academic staff, we are providing a series of training courses focussing on theoretical issues and practical problems related to the delivery of subject-specific content in English. So far courses have been delivered to over 390 lecturers from 85 universities and colleges across the country.
The British Council Vietnam is also engaging at policy level by inviting key leaders in higher education to attend open dialogues at international conferences such as Going Global, as well as commissioning research to provide insights on the impact of EMI on staff and students. Dr Nicola Galloway from the University of Edinburgh is conducting research into ‘The growing global phenomenon of English Medium of Instruction (EMI) in higher education: policy, perceptions, impact, and the role of 'English'.