ItaCentro with other Vietnamese partners in the MOTIVE meeting session at National University of Art Education on March 2021
Ten years ago, in April 2011, Hanoi University (HANU) founded the Italian language, culture and international mobility centre (ItaCentro), being an administrative unit of the University, and strongly convinced it will contribute to the internationalisation of higher education.
It was only consisting of the first stage in the student exchange programme and double degree course for students from the Italian department.
Now, after ten years, ItaCentro has attained remarkable achievements: expanding the student exchange programmes and double degree courses to other departments which have many faculties (business management, finance, tourism, information technology, political sciences, international relations, English linguistics, etc.), it established a strong network of cooperation between Vietnamese and European universities, developed other staff and lecturer exchange programmes for HANU and its university partners, and promoted scholarship programmes abroad for Bachelor, Master, and Ph.D. students in various multi-disciplinary fields. With over a thousand students sent abroad by ItaCentro, which are all well-prepared in Italian language knowledge, a rare language in Viet Nam; it managed to become an important language bridge, contributing to the promotion of the Italian language and culture in Viet Nam.
Viet Nam News (VNS) spoke with ItaCentro to understand their success.
VNS: Good morning to ItaCentro! We wanted to know how you developed cooperation with Italy when there are only about 100 million Italian speakers in the world, and most of the Universities in Viet Nam and Italy do not know about one another?
ItaCentro: We started on the basis of what HANU had ten years ago: the first Italian Department in Viet Nam to provide a bachelor's degree in Italian culture and language; we had many degree courses taught in English, the support from the university’s board, the dynamism, the enthusiasm, as well as the dedication of lecturers and staff from ItaCentro and HANU’s other faculties. From those, we took the first step in developing a diversified discipline exchange programme. Moreover, the similarities between the two cultures, geographical and national characteristics of Italy and Viet Nam, have helped us to erase language barriers, to give Vietnamese students an in-depth view of the beautiful southern European country and diverted the trend of cooperating with only English-speaking countries.
The proof that ItaCentro was right in its view and direction has been given by the number of exchanging and double degree students, coming from the Italian faculty, and from others to Italy (business administration, banking and finance, tourism, information technology, international studies, etc.); the number of Italian students coming to HANU, as well as the number of programmes and transferred credits increasing constantly has proven that ItaCentro is going in the right direction.
As a result, HANU is cooperating effectively with over 40 Universities (most from Italy) via networking and implementation activities of ItaCentro.
ItaCentro’s transformation has been marked by its participation in the construction, coordination, and implementation of Erasmus+ projects since 2015. With 33 Erasmus+ KA107 exchange projects (with 30 Italian universities) through various affiliated programmes (exchange, double degree, joint training) and five Erasmus+ KA2 capacity building projects (four of which coordinated by Italian Universities and two projects in participation with the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training – MOET – as an official member), ItaCentro has sent more than 200 students and 100 lecturers and staff to partner universities in Italy and other European countries in the framework of these Erasmus programmes. The results of the Erasmus KA2 projects are also highly positive and well-recognised by the European Commission.
VNS: Is the cooperation for integration and internationalisation of higher education of ItaCentro exclusively for HANU students and teachers? If the collaboration includes non-HANU units, is there any service fee?
ItaCentro: Our mission is to connect Vietnamese and European universities; therefore, the support is absolutely free. Up to now, we have connected 40 European universities (mainly from Italy) with about 30 Vietnamese universities through exchange programmes, double degree projects, joint training programs, visiting professors, Ph.D. scholarships, affirming the integration capacity of HANU and other Vietnamese universities in the internationalisation of higher education.
With the development of overseas study activities for Vietnamese students in partnership with Italian Universities, ItaCentro organises courses in language, culture, life, and study skills for students who intend to study in Italy. Apart from tuition and administrative fees, all other types of support like orientation to the university and course selection, course application, visa request documents, searching for accommodation, registration to courses, tax code, resident permit, internship opportunities etc., all are free of charge, not only before their departure to Italy but also during the whole studying period, and they continue even after graduation.
We also support connecting Vietnamese and Italian businesses. Therefore, enterprises from both countries have actively helped ItaCentro’s students in searching for internships, participating in European projects on increasing job opportunities, as well as implementing many successful deals.
We are currently expanding our connection with many European universities after the success of the Erasmus projects with Poland and Spain in 2020. Constructing and participating in Erasmus+ projects will not stop at KA107, KA2, or cooperating only with those Vietnamese universities familiar to us until now. ItaCentro will prioritise universities that have many ethnic minorities.
At the same time, we are also focusing on increasing the hosting of lecturers and students from European universities to HANU and other Vietnamese partner universities.
VNS: Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected ItaCentro’s activities?
ItaCentro: We would have to say yes, but not so much. We still maintain our everyday functions. During the first semester of the academic year 2020-2021, ItaCentro has sent more than 70 students to Italy under scholarship programmes. In particular, for students coming to the University of Messina, both tuition and accommodation are free; besides, they receive two hot meals a day, 1200 Euro of scholarship per year, and 400 Euro of emergency assistance per month.
Italian exchange students and interns also arrived in Ha Noi and are currently following Viet Nam’s quarantine procedures. ItaCentro staff always accompany them in order to provide support in procedural and personal problems if any of those arise. And let us repeat: Our support is free.
Moreover, ItaCentro has to recognise and thank Hanu’s rectorate Board for the great support received, which helped us to achieve such successes, and Vietnamese and European partners; the Italian Embassy in Ha Noi, the Viet Nam Embassy in Italy, especially we are grateful to the parents and students who trusted our structure, ItaCentro.
VNS: These are truly impressive achievements! We wish ItaCentro continues to achieve success in the future!
ItaCentro students at the University of Calabria (Italy)
Dorel Manitiu, International Relations Office, Interuniversity Consortium AlmaLaurea, Italy
“I, as an Italian staff member of AlmaLaurea Interuniversity Consortium, partner of ITACENTRO - Hanoi University in many initiatives, greatly appreciate your dedicated years of service and loyalty to our partnership. You might not know this, but I am aware of all your efforts, hard work and commitment and I cannot thank you enough. I value all your sacrifices in helping this cooperation grow to where it is today. Having such amazing people to work with, such as Ms. Dang Thi Phuong Thao and Ms. Hoang Thu Thuy and your invaluable contributions make my work more rewarding and enjoyable!”
Bui Thi Thu Nguyet, full scholarship holder at the University of Messina, Italy, and Junior Communications and Video Production Intern, ITU, United Nations
“I feel immensely proud, privileged and emotional to be an international student in Italy thanks to ITACENTRO. As a Communication Intern at ActionAid Denmark, I never stop being grateful for ITACENTRO for where I am today. The Center has fostered me so much with my education, helped me to achieve my dreams. I greatly admire the hard-working team at the ITACENTRO with their massive effort and vision to promote sustainable education, culture-cross friendship. I would like to take this occasion to say Happy 10th birthday to ITACENTRO. May you stand strong for many more decades.”