For our students, campus is a wonderful place – a space to learn and socialise away from city bustle, and homes filled with multi-generational family members

There’s a lot of discussion in Australian higher education as to low student attendance on campus, along the lines of “how do we get students (and staff) back on campus and do we need (or want to)”.  And some ask, “Will Australian campuses ever be the same again?”.  This is not particularly a new conversation.  I’m sure all of us in higher education remember the Great Debate on the benefits of recording lectures and its impact on lecture attendance as just one example.

There’s a totally different story in Vietnam.  Our campuses are positively buzzing with students, and it is currently semester break!  Our students and staff simply love being on campus, all day, all week, and even on weekends and holidays. In Ho Chi Minh City, our students zoom through the streets to get to the campus in District Seven.  Some travel for hours from far away – on motorbikes, on buses, on foot, all in 35-degree humid heat.

Our students understand that their education is both an individual, and family, investment.  In Vietnam, family education investment is increasing – on average, 6.8 per cent of a family’s monthly income is spent on education, as reported by Infocus Mekong Research.

For our students, our campus is a wonderful place.   For them, it’s a space away from the bustle of the city, an escape from a home filled with multi-generational family members, a space to learn and a space to socialise and get access to new ideas, peers, and friends.   The campus is the home of our student clubs, run with professional precision. Club life is so vibrant and a part of our culture that most student clubs have membership waitlists. The events they put on are simply amazing.  For example, the 2022 Marketing Challengers Season 11 organised by our Saigon South Business Club attracted 1,500 participants from nearly 50 universities across Vietnam. Our male basketball club was the champion team at the Vietnam National University Championships 2022.  Earlier this month, our students organised and hosted a wonderful TEDxRMIT, an independently organised TED event in Hanoi.

The urge to gain an academic and career advantage drives students hard. They fight for every opportunity, they say yes to opportunities offered to them, they study long into the night on sofas and kitchen tables, not only to gain an advantage but to make their family proud.

The discussion on campus attendance highlights that student life is complex, in Australia and in Vietnam, and everywhere. There are expectations, pressures, competing priorities, and complicated motivations. Learning is hard.  It takes time and effort. It is also true that learning does not just happen within the four walls of a university campus.  Learning happens anytime, anywhere, as long as learners are actively engaged in learning.  It is our obligation as educators to set the conditions and learning environment for outstanding educational experiences and interactions. We must empower learners to shape their own future, and engage and be challenged, and create new knowledge, and contribute to society, and to the communities in which we operate.  This is equally true in Australia, and in Vietnam.

It is, however, intoxicating and a privilege to be surrounded by the energy of an alive campus where students are so visibly engaged in learning.  It is a distinctive vibe of an Australian University in Vietnam, driven by a belief in education supported by family, and the dreams, hopes and expectations of the future an international education will bring them.

Professor Claire Macken is the Pro Vice-Chancellor of RMIT University in Vietnam. She collaborated on this piece with Amy Lee-Hopkins, Head of Communications, RMIT Vietnam and Tran Tran, External Communications Manager, RMIT Vietnam.

This article was originally published on the Campus Morning Mail and has been republished with full permission from the author. To view the original article please click here.

Publication Date
Sunday 19th February, 2023
Your Authors
Professor Claire Macken
Pro Vice-Chancellor, RMIT University Vietnam
Amy Lee-Hopkins
Head of Communications, RMIT Vietnam
Tran Tran
External Communications Manager, RMIT Vietnam