Tiếng Việt

Duy Tan Dream

Beloved Teacher Writing Contest: Anxious to Develop a Private University

Distinguished Teacher. Le Cong Co, Chairman of the DTU Board of Directors, has experienced a life of ups and downs, but has always maintained his trust and desire to dedicate himself to the development of private university education in Vietnam. He was born in 1941 in Quang Nam, currently lives and works in Danang, is a familiar name in Vietnam, and internationally distinguished in Southeast Asia and beyond.
Hardships while dreaming of opening a private university
Although Distinguished Teacher. Le Cong Co originally earned a Bachelor’s degree in Pedagogy, he rarely taught early on. Instead he was active in the pre-1975 urban revolutionary movement in the South. He held important local positions there, was a National Assembly delegate, and also directed a tourism business.
On leaving his government job, during the early Doi Moi period, Distinguished Teacher. Le Cong Co was consumed by the need to reform education, which needed modernization and some innovative thinking. After researching the situation in developed countries, with much thought, he concluded it was necessary to create a new private university. 
This was a radical idea at the time, not only in Central Vietnam but nationwide. He explained: “When I proposed this concept at the time, many people agreed with me, and many people opposed it,” he recalls. “They believed that this would be impossible. How could a private school, a university, survive in Vietnam when the public sector dominated? Some found me deluded.” They had their reasons. When Distinguished Teacher. Le Cong Co presented his project for the creation of a private university to the authorities in 1987, he was immediately turned down, but resolved to continue this difficult journey.
He accepted that he was forced to backtrack to gain an opportunity. If he could not succeed immediately, he would go about his mission step by step. So he traveled back and forth to open the first private English Practice Center of Central Vietnam, based in Danang and then quickly moved on to the next step. A Canadian friend had donated him two computers, so he applied to develop an electronics and informatics center. Once this had been achieved and had stabilized, he then successfully applied to implement joint training courses in English and Informatics at universities and colleges, and, in doing so, his first goal had finally been accomplished.
In 1992, he then applied to found a private university in Central Vietnam, although Vietnam did not yet have the legal infrastructure in place to do so. He patiently waited for another two years, until 1994, when Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet issued the very first regulations on private universities.
“Looking back, there’s so much to tell,” reminisces Distinguished Teacher Le Cong Co, sipping a cup of tea. “At the time, it was like being ambushed from ten different sides. My wife and I needed to persevere on pursuing our objectives, so we mortgaged our house for 120 million VND in order to complete our project and submit it to the government. But even then, with the legal foundation now in place, our difficulties were still endless, even including choosing a name for our university.”
In 1993 and 1994, he took fifty train journeys to Hanoi to campaign for the establishment of a private university, but his suggestion to change the name to DTU was also quickly turned down. However, he never gave up. He remained determined modernize and make innovations in Vietnamese education. He then considered taking a step that he thought was risky, to try to schedule a personal meeting with the Prime Minister himself! That was no simple matter, but after giving it much thought, he saw no other way.
Cu?c thi vi?t Ngu?i th?y kính yêu: Ngu?i dau dáu phát tri?n d?i h?c tu
Distinguished Teacher. Le Cong Co signs books for students (Photo provided Mr. Cong)
An educational philosophy based on love for the people
Then, one day, near at the government offices, Distinguished Teacher. Le Cong Co saw his chance to make his move, by intercepting Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet on the street, and his request was accepted. After listening to Mr. Co, the Head of State drafted a short message to the Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Khanh, saying, “Dear Mr. Khanh! I think Comrade Le Cong Co should be allowed to name his school Duy Tan, as this was the name of the powerful movement founded by the revolutionary Phan Chau Trinh, so it is very suitable name for a university based in Danang, in Central Vietnam.”
The Duy Tan private university was officially opened in 1994, offering several new educational opportunities in Central Vietnam. With its motto, “modern and humanist,” the university gradually affirmed its quality and reputation.
Thirty years later, DTU employs one thousand lecturers, many of whom were educated in the US or in Singapore, have published numerous papers in international journals and won several international awards. The school partners with major universities worldwide in training and research, and in the interim has educated 60 PhDs, 3,000 Masters, 110,000 Bachelors, and 12,000 high school students.
DTU is honored to be ranked in the top 500 of universities in the world, one of only two from Vietnam, and ranked in the top 100 in Asia,. Most graduates secure stable jobs appropriate to their particular disciplines and DTU has become a brand now recognized by government agencies, domestic and foreign-owned companies alike. The university has received many significant government awards, and Mr. Le Cong Co himself, Chairman of the Board of Directors and previously Provost, was awarded the title of Meritorious Teacher. In addition, in 2016, he was decorated Hero of Labor of the Renovation Period, becoming the first person in private education to receive such a great honor. According to Mr. Le Cong Co, whatever you do, first of all you must truly care for and love people, which is the most important and practical factor. Every educational philosophy must start with the people and the determination to work for and with them.
Private schools do not live on tuition alone
Even at his advanced age, Distinguished Teacher. Le Cong Co still holds the positions of Chairman of the Board of Directors and Secretary of the university Party Committee. “You ask if working in private education in this day and age is difficult,” he asked after much discussion. “It’s true that it isn’t easy, and people often bring up the issue of funding. However, the very existence and development of DTU confirms we’re on the right track. Even though we’re a private university, I have paid great attention to the creation of collectives, and, furthermore, I’m a long-time Party member. So far, our collectives are comprehensive and operate highly effectively, with the university Party Committee at the core. 
Even though we’re a private institution, we do look beyond tuition and operating costs, and focus on taking care of children from needy families by providing them with tuition exemptions and practical support. The same goes for contributions to social work and charities.”
(Media Center)