What are alternative ways philanthropists can partner higher education institutions towards creating sustainable, systemic change?
BY NANCY CHANG
In APC’s first hybrid event of the year, members and guests from Vietnam sought to highlight the goal of creating systemic change through strategic philanthropy through higher education. Education is the most common target for philanthropic giving in Asia, accounting for 62% of all charitable donations from Asian philanthropists in 2021.
However, in the region, where a core education focus for many philanthropists might be on access to safe schools, improving curriculum or teacher training, strategic partnership with higher education institutions is often overlooked. While traditional ideas associated with philanthropy in higher education bring to mind large donations to fund scholarships or buildings, APC’s recent Vietnam Roundtable co-hosted by Fulbright University Vietnam explored the alternative ways in which APC members have partnered with higher education institutions in Vietnam to create programmes to further their impact.-
The programmes – which include the Natural Capital Management Programme, the NP Family Scholarship, and the Master of Global Trade Programme – seek to create a generation of leaders that are equipped with the knowledge and abilities to anticipate future needs in Vietnam and sustainably lead their communities through challenges.
With a focus on environmental sustainability, the Natural Capital Management Programme at Fulbright University encourages future leaders to include natural capital in all levels of decision-making through research and policymaking. By funding research in the Mekong River Delta, the programme will propel students to identify the critical environmental challenges the region faces as it develops and proposes policy solutions to local stakeholders. Similarly, the Dragon Capital Chair in Biodiversity Economics at Exeter University, hopes to use research-based evidence to demonstrate the economic benefits of maintaining biodiversity to individuals and businesses.
While traditional scholarships may look for high academic achieving students, the NP Family Scholarship is awarded to a student every year who demonstrates the characteristics of a changemaker. This future changemaker will receive a full scholarship to attend Fulbright University along with tailored courses for social-emotional training through mindfulness workshops and participation in community service—a departure from the traditional wholesale focus on academic achievement. This scholarship hopes to generate a network of leaders that help build a kinder, more humane world focused on broader human development and social sustainability.
As Vietnam transitions into a developed country, one of its challenges will be meeting the growing demand for skilled workers in the labour force. The Master of Global Trade Programme at RMIT prepares students for the field of global trade by collaborating with employers to co-create courses with real life case studies and equipping students with the skills employers need. Through this course design, students learn soft skills and develop the networks and strategic abilities required to navigate the field of global trade.
The emergence of liberal arts colleges in Vietnam, with increasing support from philanthropists, may also reduce the need for students to go overseas, allowing their talents to remain in Vietnam and create rippling impacts locally. “There is no investment that can yield greater returns than an investment in education,” said President of Fulbright University Madame Dam Bich Thuy in her opening remarks. Ultimately, higher education is worth further investment because this is where our future leaders are being shaped. As Vietnam continues to grow and develop, philanthropists should take a strategic approach when partnering with higher education institutions to foster future leaders and create long-lasting change in the community.