New financing builds on a long legacy of U.S. support for Fulbright University Vietnam and its educational, economic, and cultural impact
WASHINGTON – U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) today announced the financial commitment of $37 million via a 20-year direct loan to support the construction of Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV)’s new campus in Ho Chi Minh City. FUV is Vietnam’s first independent, non-profit liberal arts university. This project will support the Phase I construction of accommodations, academic buildings, and dining and recreation facilities for up to 1,500 students. Announced on the margins of the Indo-Pacific Business Forum, this investment demonstrates DFC’s commitment to helping businesses pursue promising opportunities that improve lives in emerging economies across the region.
“This project represents the culmination off more than 25 years of work on a bipartisan basis toward strengthening relations with, and advancing development in, Vietnam,” said Acting DFC Chief Executive Officer Dev Jagadesan. “The new campus in Ho Chi Minh City will advance inclusive economic growth in Vietnam and the entire Indo-Pacific region.”
“Fulbright University Vietnam is an inspiring example of the steady progress between our two countries since normalization 25 years ago,” said U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy. “The FUV students I have met stand out for their enthusiasm, their intellect, and their determination to succeed. I am very pleased that the DFC will be investing in FUV’s new campus, which represents a longterm investment in Vietnam’s future.”
DFC’s investment in FUV will help close the gap between the demand for skilled employees in Vietnam’s workforce and educational opportunities in the country, which fall short of what is needed. FUV’s mission is to overcome this disconnect to advance economic opportunity and inclusive growth in Vietnam. While Vietnamese students perform well on standard academic tests, employers consistently report that students lack the skills needed to excel, as reflected in the high underemployment rate of college graduates.
FUV is determined to support Vietnam and the region in addressing complex and cross-cutting grand challenges including climate change, defensive cybersecurity, and urbanization. In addition, FUV is dedicated to the study and stewardship of Vietnam’s rich cultural heritage through its commitment to Vietnamese Studies and the visual and performing arts.
The United States government has a long history of support for FUV. The university traces its roots to a 1991 bill sponsored by Senator John Kerry to develop an exchange program for Vietnamese students and government officials. Following the success of this program, in 1994 the Department of State funded the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University to partner with the Vietnamese university to establish the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program, Vietnam’s first center of public policy. Both the exchange and graduate public policy programs are still in operation today and have trained over 2,000 public and private sector decision-makers.
In 2016, the public policy center incubated by Harvard transitioned to FUV, becoming the university’s first academic program. Today, FUV offers three academic initiatives – the Undergraduate Program in Engineering and the Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, and a problem-focused research program.
The Department of State Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs, pursuant to an act of Congress, distributed approximately $16 million from the Vietnam Debt Repayment Fund, and an additional $17 million appropriated by Congress, over a period of six years to support FUV while under development and during its initial operational phase. The Department of State Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs also granted $5 million to FUV to establish the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Academy at Fulbright University Vietnam, to provide executive-level training to entry- and mid-level professionals from ASEAN nations and Timor-Leste on the themes of entrepreneurship, technology and innovation, and public policy. USAID has also granted $28.35 million from 2017 to 2021 to advance FUV’s performance in institutional governance, academic development and quality assurance, revenue diversification and sustainability, and partnerships with the private sector and other higher education institutions, and to expand the YSEALI programs.
This project is aligned with U.S. foreign policy objectives and enjoys broad support from the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam. The direct loan will advance DFC’s 2X Women’s Initiative, as FUV’s current student ratio of women in its undergraduate program at its temporary campus is 65 percent, and the university will target to recruit an average of 63 percent women students for its programs when it shifts to the permanent campus. In addition, FUV is implementing a broad range of advanced energy and water efficiency strategies in the design of its campus facilities.
FUV’s campus will be built in the Saigon High-Tech Park on a 15 hectare parcel of land donated to the university by the Vietnamese government. The campus will be the most environmentally advanced education complex ever built in Vietnam and will serve as a living sustainability laboratory for students, faculty and the interested public. The campus has been designed by SHoP Architects (New York City) and MH Architects (Ho Chi Minh City).
U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is America’s development bank. DFC partners with the private sector to finance solutions to the most critical challenges facing the developing world today. We invest across sectors including energy, healthcare, critical infrastructure, and technology. DFC also provides financing for small businesses and women entrepreneurs in order to create jobs in emerging markets. DFC investments adhere to high standards and respect the environment, human rights, and worker rights.