Vietnam is one of Russia’s key partners in the Asia-Pacific region, with scientific, technological and educational cooperation between our countries going through intensive development.
Rossotrudnichestvo, an organisation responsible for promoting Russian education services abroad, allocates nearly 1,000 quotas to Vietnamese nationals annually, more than any other non-CIS country gets. Applicants who are granted quotas can commence free studies in a university of their choice.
Le Thanh Binh works at the Institute of Energy & Mining Mechanical Engineering (IEMM). He recently arrived in St. Petersburg to present his PhD thesis.
“After completing my master’s at Hanoi University of Science and Technology in 2006, I was offered to work at the materials science laboratory in IEMM. This is a research institute that is part of Vinacomin, Vietnam’s largest mining company; it specialises in manufacturing and repairing mining machinery and spare parts. Five years later, I was appointed the Deputy Director of the Testing Center. This is when I felt the need to upgrade my skills,” says the student.
“The quality of higher education in Vietnam has improved a lot lately. Still, it is incomparable to that of what developed countries offer – G7 and Russia notably.”
“The Assistant Director of the Institute suggested that I choose his alma mater – St. Petersburg Mining University. By the way, many of my colleagues graduated from it. Soon I learnt there was a cooperation programme between the two institutions. Mining University offered education in the field that I was interested in. I also found out about scholarship opportunities. So the decision was made. In 2013, I became a PhD student in the ‘Mining Machines’ programme,” he adds.
Only 3% of international students in Russia are receiving postgraduate education – 10,000 in total. The overall number of students from abroad amounts to 310,000. Le Thanh Binh thinks it is hardly surprising since students expect to start working right after they graduate, aiming for financial independence.
“If you engage yourself in scientific research, the duration of studies rises by three to four years. Few can afford it. PhD stipends in Russia are generally not that high, remaining below the level of an average salary. In that sense, Mining University is an exception,” he says.
“Of course, locals also have it easier than foreigners, who have to pay their living costs and cannot rely on family support. That is why international students usually don’t proceed to further education after getting their bachelors’ or masters’. That said, in Vietnam, we don’t even have that – PhD programmes are fee-based, with a fee per academic year ranging between $15-20 thousand,” stresses out the researcher.
Today’s Vietnam is particularly interested in training engineers. Therefore, the advancement of technical education has become a national priority. Tens of thousands of high-school graduates enrol in universities of applied sciences, and thousands leave the country to explore education opportunities abroad.
“Our domestic economy greatly depends on the mining of coal, granite, limestone, and the extraction of oil and gas. Hence, the development of mechanical engineering, a supporting industry, positively affects the mineral resources sector on the whole,” explains Le Thanh Binh.
“In Russia, I was able to delve into research areas relevant to my country. I wrote my thesis on improving the durability of impact tools, focusing mainly on the hydraulic hammer. We actively use it in quarries and mines. Guided by my teachers from Mining University, I wrote scientific articles. I visited factories producing hydraulic breakers, tested various models whilst performing mining operations both in Russia and Vietnam,” he continues.
By 2018, the Vietnamese scientist had completed most of his studies, with only a thesis paper left unfinished. He returned to Hanoi to work at IEMM and proceeded to write his thesis. Soon he was promoted to Deputy Head of the R&D department, and now he is responsible for governing research on optimisation of mining machinery and manufacture of new products.
“Academic degree is what I need to advance my career further. By the end of this month, I should be a Candidate of Sciences (analogous to a Doctor of Philosophy). Then I’ll be able to apply for the position of head of R&D.
Vinacomin takes Russian education seriously. So far, 15 employees of our Institute pursued PhD studies at Mining University. Two more have been sent to study by me personally. In the future, I plan to facilitate the educational and scientific cooperation between the corporation I work for and the University. Hopefully, it will result in new opportunities for joint research, sharing experiences, and engineering and scientific training. I suppose it will be by no means less worthy contribution to international relations had I stayed in Russia,” sums up the soon-to-be graduate.