California Universities' Interest in a World Bank-Financed Vietnam Project

Apparently the World Bank has already given preliminary approval for a USD 400 million loan to Vietnam for the purpose of constructing new higher educational institutions. A group of American policy analysts at Harvard University's Ash Institute, The New School, and the U.S. State Department's Fulbright program has recommended that most of this money be used to construct an American-style "undergraduate research college" that is designed by Americans and run (for a 10-year period) by American university administrators. Interestingly, most of the American universities that have expressed interest in this project are in California.

As anyone who follows U.S. academic affairs is aware, the University of California system is facing a financial crisis of catastrophic proportions. According to the New York Times (20 November 2009),

As the University of California struggles to absorb its sharpest drop in state financing since the Great Depression, every professor, administrator and clerical worker has been put on furlough amounting to an average pay cut of 8 percent. In chemistry laboratories that have produced Nobel Prize-winning research, wastebaskets are stuffed to the brim on the new reduced cleaning schedule. Many students are frozen out of required classes as course sections are trimmed. And on Thursday, to top it all off, the Board of Regents voted to increase student fees -- the equivalent of tuition -- by 32 percent next fall... Among students and faculty alike, there is a pervasive sense that the increases and the deep budget cuts are pushing the university into decline.
The New York Times article states that the university system's budget has been reduced this year by USD 813 million. Obviously, university officials in California are desperate to find new sources of funding, and it is not hard to understand why they would be interested in participating in the Vietnam project and receiving a substantial part of the USD 400 million World Bank money. If this scenario plays out in the way that the U.S. advisers hope, what will essentially happen is that a significant foreign aid package will be given by Vietnam to the United States to benefit the cash-poor California university system.

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