The presence of the SBS-EM in Vietnam has been governed by a need to develop management practice in this transition economy. This non-profit mission has continued to evolve towards a new European university centre taking shape in South East Asia. Michel Allé, Deputy Dean Vietnam Affairs tells us more.
- Michel Allé, you have enjoyed a privileged perspective of SBS Vietnam development. Remind us of some of the key episodes in this great story…
I would like to pay tribute to two people in particular. In 1994, a Vietnamese Vice-minister for Education, keen to seek out opportunities for cooperation, paid a visit to the ULB’s chancellor of the time, Françoise Thys. At that period, Vietnam was beginning to open up and Belgium was one of the very first countries in Europe to renew diplomatic relations with it. Françoise Thys gave an overview of what was happening at the ULB and her Vietnamese guest showed a keen interest in the lifelonglearning programmes offered by the SBS-EM. He let the chancellor know that he wanted to set something similar up in Vietnam. Then we have Professor Jacques Nagels, the founder. Françoise Thys had sent him to Vietnam with a view to establishing local partnerships. Based on strict criteria, he soon reached an agreement with the Open University (OU) of Ho-Chi-Minh City (Saigon). Courses began at the start of 1995 and were followed a year and a half later by a similar programme at the National Economics University of Hanoi.
Creation of the SBS Vietnam programmes at the request of the local public authorities, in partnership with the Open University (OU) in Ho-Chi-Minh City (Saigon), with a view to long-term cooperation for development, supported by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.
Cooperation extended to the National Economics University (NEU), Hanoi.
After 15 years of support from the Wallonia- Brussels Federation, SBS Vietnam continues its development by self-funding, while maintaining its non-profit policy.
By 1 January 2017, SBS Vietnam will have a cumulative total of 2,400 Alumni.
Target year for the creation of the European Management University (EMU), a university centre for leading-edge managerial education in South-East Asia, in partnership with other European faculties and universities.
Immersion and CSR
- So what was innovative about the SBS Vietnam programme?
Our model incorporates our Vietnamese partners, unlike the models adopted by other foreign operators out there. We believe that it is good to have local roots, to work with people who understand students’ expectations, the way the Vietnamese authorities work, etc. Twenty-one years on and this model has not disappointed. Leading professors from the SBS-EM go there to deliver courses on strategy, finance, marketing, public management – one of the School’s strengths – IT, etc. Our Master’s degree in Public Management has trained generations of high-ranking Vietnamese public officials, as well as those in private roles in state enterprises, multinationals, etc.
WITHOUT GIVING UP ON OUR VALUES, WE ASKED OURSELVES: WHY NOT JOIN FORCES WITH ANOTHER LOCAL ACTOR?
- When it was founded, didn’t SBS Vietnam have a clear CSR profile?
Our philosophy was one of cooperation for development, which allowed us, among other things, to benefit for more than ten years from financial support from the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. This began to decrease from 2005, so we set ourselves the target of becoming self-funding and this has been the case since 2009, with the Faculty’s support. However, we remain a non-profit institution. Our ambition is to cover our operating costs, principally the missions carried out by our teachers, and to offer Vietnamese students high-level management training at a very reasonable cost. This model involves a high number of demands from our students. Also, in our public management programme, there is a clear emphasis on the environment, regulation and ethics.
Sights set on South-East Asia
- Does the future of SBS Vietnam form part of the international plan for a European Management University (EMU)?
We live in a world that is becoming globalised and where competition is ever stronger, so, without giving up on our values, we asked ourselves: why not join forces with another local actor? We looked into this with our French friends at the CFVG (Franco-Vietnamese Centre for Management Training). The deadline agreed is 2018, but there are still a lot of stages to get through! We will choose European partners of the same high academic quality and with the same standards as our own. We will take care to ensure that they are complementary – I’m thinking in particular about the whole field of technology and innovation. The literacy rate in Vietnam is very high (93%), almost 90% of the population go through secondary education but only 25% go on to train at university level. So our lifelong training is really marginal, yet the need is immense. Along with other actors, we envisage the emergence of a regionally targeted European project in South-East Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar-Burma), with a full portfolio from the age of 18 right up to doctorates in economics and management, via programmes we have been delivering for more than 20 years out there, MBAs and specialised master’s degrees.
BUILDING THE FUTURE of SBS Vietnam
Since last July, Hélène Lambillon, Chief Operations Manager at Solvay Executive Education Vietnam, has been managing our day-to-day Vietnam affairs. We have every reason to believe that she is the right person in the right place. “An SBS-EM graduate, I’ve been working at Solvay ExEd for 6 years. I’m familiar with every aspect of the job and to see it transposed to the heart of another culture is exciting. I have the advantage of having a good understanding of Vietnamese culture: my mother is Vietnamese and my father is Belgian. The ideal combination!”
Hélène Lambillon is working to ensure the sustainability of teaching missions in Vietnam. “The needs of students over there for Executive Education are largely the same as in Brussels. But they display an incredible desire to work; it’s as if after being half asleep for decades, the country feels the need to catch up and get on board.” As a manager, Hélène is working on “cross-fertilisation” projects with a view to putting Solvay communities in Brussels and in Vietnam in touch.