ItaCentro students at the University of Calabria (Italy). Photos Courtesy of Hanoi University
Ten years ago, in April 2011, Hà Nội University (HANU) founded the Italian Language, Culture and International Mobility Centre (ItaCentro), an administrative unit of the University strongly committed to contributing to the internationalisation of higher education in Việt Nam.
The first step consisted of only exchange and double degree programs for students from the Italian department.
Ten years later, ItaCentro has attained remarkable achievements. It has expanded 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 has also established a strong network of cooperation between Vietnamese and European universities, developed staff and lecturer exchange programmes for HANU and its university partners, and promoted scholarship programmes abroad for Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. students in various multi-disciplinary fields.
With over a thousand students--all well-prepared in Italian language knowledge, a rare language in Việt Nam-- sent abroad by ItaCentro, it has managed to become an important language bridge, contributing to the promotion of the Italian language and culture in Việt Nam.
ItaCentro with other Vietnamese partners in the MOTIVE meeting session at the National University of Art Education on March 2021.
HANU was the first university in Việt Nam to provide a bachelor’s degree in Italian language. Its strength in teaching languages and many other majors in English, encouraged ItaCentro to take the first steps in developing a diversified discipline exchange programme in 2011. The similarities between Việt Nam and Italy, in terms of geographical and national characteristics, have helped erase language barriers and given Vietnamese students an in-depth view of the beautiful southern European country. They have averted the trend of cooperating with only English-speaking countries.
The number of exchange and double degree students has increased over the years, from both sides: Vietnamese students from the Italian language faculty and also other faculties (business administration, banking and finance, tourism, information technology, international studies, etc.) going to Italy and the number of Italian students coming to HANU. The number of programmes and transfer credits has also been consistently on the rise.
As a result, HANU is cooperating effectively with over 40 Universities (mostly from Italy) via the 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 (among which 30 are with Italian universities) through various affiliated programmes (exchange, double degree, joint training) and five Erasmus+ KA2 capacity building projects (four of which are 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 highly appreciated by the European Commission. The Erasmus+ project for capacity building in higher education MOTIVE “Monitoring Trends in Vietnamese graduates’ Employment”, coordinated by AlmaLaurea and ItaCentro-HANU as national coordinator in Vietnam, will be mentioned as one of the 300 best practices among 5.000 initiatives developed in 195 countries in the "World Best Practice on Sustainability and Innovation" contest. It will also be included in the "'The Lonely-Planet of Sustainability" video book by Entreps - the International Board of Global Actors and Business for Sustainability.
ItaCentro’s mission is to connect Vietnamese and European universities and the support is free of charge. To date, it has connected 40 European universities (mainly from Italy) with about 30 Vietnamese universities through exchange programmes, double degree projects, joint training programs, visiting professors, Bachelors, Masters and Ph.D. scholarships, reaffirming the integration capacity of HANU and other Vietnamese universities in the internationalisation of higher education.
With its 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, students won’t have to pay for all other types of support, such as orientation, course selection, course application, visa request documents, searching for accommodation, registering for courses, tax codes, resident permits, internship opportunities among others. The support is provided not only before students’ departure to Italy but also during the whole studying period, and even after graduation.
ItaCentro also works to help connect Vietnamese and Italian businesses. As a result, enterprises from both countries have actively helped ItaCentro’s students search for internships, participate in European projects to increase job opportunities, as well as implement many successful deals.
“I feel immensely proud, privileged and emotional to be an international student in Italy thanks to ITACENTRO. As a Communication Intern at ActionAid Denmark in 2020 and the Junior Communications and Video Production Intern, ITU, United Nations in 2021, 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 and cross-cultural friendship,” said Bùi Thị Thu Nguyệt, full scholarship holder at the University of Messina, Italy, and Junior Communications and Video Production Intern, ITU, United Nations.
“I would like to take this occasion to say Happy 10th birthday to ITACENTRO. May you stand strong for many more decades,” she said.
The centre is currently expanding its connection with many European universities after the success of the Erasmus projects with Poland and Spain in 2020. ItaCentro’s engagement and co-operation with Erasmus+ will not only stop at the current projects, or at cooperating only with familiar Vietnamese universities, but will develop further. ItaCentro will prioritise universities that have many ethnic minorities.
At the same time, it is also focusing on increasing the hosting of lecturers and students from European universities at HANU and other Vietnamese partner universities.
“I 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, your invaluable contributions make my work more rewarding and enjoyable,” said Dorel Manitiu, International Relations Office, Interuniversity Consortium Alma Laurea, Italy.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted ItaCentro’s activities, but only minimally. The centre still maintains its 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, students coming to the University of Messina don’t have to pay for tuition or accommodation. They also receive two hot meals a day, 1,200 Euro of scholarship per year, and most of them also receive 400 Euro of emergency assistance per month.
ItaCentro had also been successful in developing paid internship programmes in Italy, which Vietnamese students at Hanoi University and Italian and Vietnamese partner universities can do at Italian hotels and restaurants with free lodging and boarding. The interns even received 500 Euro per month. This summer, about 20 students are beneficiaries of the program.
Italian exchange students and interns also arrived in Hà Nội and have completed Việt Nam’s quarantine procedure. ItaCentro staff accompanied them providing support in procedural and personal problems if any arose. This support, as always, is free of charge.
HANU’s rectorate Board, Vietnamese and European partners; the Italian Embassy in Hà Nội, the Viet Nam Embassy in Italy, and the trust from students and their parents are all due tremendous credit for ItaCentro’s success.