Rice, Tan Tao agree to cooperate

Signing ceremony

Rice and Tan Tao University of Vietnam signed a memorandum of understanding at Wiess House on May 13. At the ceremony, from left, seated: Rice President David Leebron and Tan Tao University President Dang Thi Hoang Yen. Standing, Ellen Grodjesk, an executive assistant in the School of Social Sciences; Sonny Lim, special assistant for international collaborations; David Vassar, senior assistant to the president; University Representative Y. Ping Sun; former President Malcolm Gillis; former Provost Eugene Levy; Elizabeth Gillis, and Erzsébet Merényi, a research professor in statistics and electrical and computer engineering, all of Rice. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

Vietnam’s first private, ‘US-style’ university looks to Houston for inspiration 

The presidents of Rice University and Tan Tao University, the first nonprofit, private university in Vietnam, signed a memorandum of understanding at Rice May 13.

The agreement gives Rice a consultative role as Tan Tao, which opened its doors to students in 2010, grows to an anticipated 10 schools, including a medical school. Increasing cultural understanding is one of Rice’s Priorities for the New Century.

Rice President David Leebron and Tan Tao University President Dang Thi Hoang Yen sign the agreement that gives Rice a consultative role at Tan Tao. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

Former Rice President Malcolm Gillis, who is a University Professor, the Ervin Kenneth Zingler Professor of Economics and a professor of management, and former Rice Provost Eugene Levy are trustees and founding members of Tan Tao. Both attended the ceremony at Wiess House.

Founding President Dang Thi Hoang Yen said she intends for the American-style institution to grow into a research university of Rice’s stature.

“Right now, the government controls everything, including curriculum,” she said. “We have no freedom for that. But with cooperation between Rice and our university, we could earn that freedom.” She said a higher education law passed in collaboration with Tan Tao last year has changed the education landscape in Vietnam.

“It allows the university, if we cooperate with a recognized and well-known university in the U.S. or the world, to be free to use that university’s curriculum,” she said.

She said the decision to teach only in English, made when the trustees first met in 2006, is key to Tan Tao’s desire to become a “U.S.-style university” and to pursue U.S. accreditation.

Rice President David Leebron said the agreement “continues to build on something Malcolm is a great leader in: establishing a role for Rice in helping and advising new private universities around the globe.” Gillis helped establish Pyongyang University of Science and Technology in North Korea and Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany.

“With Madame Dang’s leadership, this university has extraordinary potential to play a great role in Vietnam and to be an example for others in emerging countries and emerging economies,” Leebron said.

“We hope it will provide opportunities for our students to explore new places. When (there are) new universities similar to Rice in aspiration, in which the language of instruction is English, our students ought to take advantage of those opportunities. I’m hoping they will,” he said.

Tan Tao officials expect to complete the campus, which will have 64 buildings and an enrollment of 10,000 students, over 15 years. One of the first structures to be completed was an administration building, Gillis Hall.

About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.