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Jan 26, 2024 / 11:00

Vietnam-Germany relations: Room for education cooperation remains large

The operation of a German-invested university and the demand for Vietnamese professionals are making education and training become a new key pillar in bilateral relations.

Vietnam and Germany have so much potential for cooperation in education following the visit paid by Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

 Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks at Vietnamese-German University in Binh Duong Province on January 24. Photos: The University

Frank-Walter Steinmeier spends half of his two-day official visit to Vietnam touring the Vietnamese-German University, a campus of vibrant exchange and collaboration between dynamic people from Vietnam, Germany and all over the globe.

The potential was assessed by Dr. Guido Hildner, German Ambassador to Vietnam, who said the bilateral cooperation would be strengthened after the visit.

President Steinmeier, in his speech to the faculty and students of Vietnamese-German University, said the educational institution is “a beacon project” for the close connection between the two countries. Located in Binh Duong Province, the facility, which costs an investment of US$200 million, is aimed to become a regional educational institution with German expertise. Currently, 2.3% of the university’s students are from 24 countries.  

Interestingly, President Steinmeier, who was then Federal Foreign Minister, witnessed the signing of a joint statement on the establishment of the Vietnamese-German University in Hanoi in 2008. The president has greatly contributed to laying a solid foundation for a project on higher education between Vietnam and Germany.

His visit in 2024 marks a milestone in the university’s development in the long-standing relations between the two countries, demonstrating the role of education in bilateral relations and people-to-people ties.

According to the University, with the support of both the Vietnamese and German governments, it has become one of the leading education institutions full of German imprints with hundreds of scientific works published in the world’s most prestigious journals. It has trained thousands of qualified graduates and post-graduates.

Notably, the German model of self-governing universities can serve as a model for the Vietnamese university system’s governance reform process towards accountability, transparency, and efficiency.

At the meeting in Hanoi on January 23, both Vietnamese State President Vo Van Thuong and President Steinmeier recognized the improvement in education cooperation with the operation of the Vietnamese-German University, which they called a “symbolic project of the relations.”

President Steinmeier expected further cooperation to make the educational institution effective and attract more Vietnamese students. For his part, President Vo Van Thuong supported the expansion and intensified investment of the university and he requested Germany to train skilled manpower for Vietnam.
 Prof. Dr. René Thiele, Principal of the Vietnamese-German University, at the welcoming ceremony given to the president. 

People – backbone of the nation

In his speech at Vietnamese-German University on January 24, Steinmeier called people, especially young ones, “the backbone of the country today”. “The future belongs to you. The nation belongs to you!”

The President used the example of Vietnam's North-South Train to illustrate the pivotal role of people and the younger generation in Vietnam’s growth.

Meanwhile, Prof. Dr. René Thiele, Principal of the Vietnamese-German University, in a talk with The Hanoi Times, stressed the importance of collaboration and investment in the future as the university conducts research and fulfills its educational mission with exchanges around the world. He said the institution helps bring the two nations closer and President Steinmeier’s visit comes at the right time and is a big step forward.

He believed that the institution would contribute to Vietnam’s education goals. “I hope that you can enjoy a good time at the Vietnamese-German University and also come back with nice memories of the university.”

In his speech, Steinmeier especially stressed the role of the community of more than 200,000 Vietnamese Germans living in Germany. “People unite our countries. The history and the many stories of Vietnamese-German migration. They are the lifeblood of our partnership. These are the people who give a face to the close Vietnamese-German relations. This has been the case for almost 50 years. This is a relationship that we want to build on,” he emphasized. 

He said Germany wants to invite even more well-trained professionals and more young Vietnamese people to the country as young Vietnamese are passionate about everything and what is progressive and has to do with digitalization. In this regard, Vietnamese-German University would be a good place to support that field of potential cooperation.

Labor cooperation is the field that was on the German President’s visit agendas. In the meetings with State President Vo Van Thuong and Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, Steinmeier highlighted the role of skilled Vietnamese laborers amid Germany’s strong demand. The leaders discussed measures to enhance the collaboration and some agreements were signed to mark efforts in this sector.  

Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s visit to Vietnam was the first paid by a German President to the country in 17 years. However, this is his third visit to the country after the first at the post of Foreign Minister in March 2008 and Vice-Chancellor cum Foreign Minister in October 201. He has contributed a lot to bilateral relations and the development of the Vietnamese community in Germany.

He said: “For Germans, Vietnam is an anchor in the region, very interested in a close exchange between Vietnam and Germany. The impressive number of mutual visits and meetings within the last years are also evidence of this.”

 Students of Vietnamese-German University welcome Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Broader cooperation

Dr. Guido Hildner also highlighted the labor cooperation, saying it’s of great potential to be tapped as Germany’s demand for skilled workers is strong, giving attractive job opportunities to Vietnamese laborers.

Dr. Hildner said nearly 8,000 Vietnamese students are learning in Germany and 300 post-graduates are doing research there under scholarships. At the same time, the two countries are promoting vocational training to meet the recruitment requirements.

As such, President Steinmeier, during his trip to Vietnam, visited the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university dating back to the 11th century, met labor recruitment partners to gain insight into the exchange of skilled labor between the two countries and attended a talk on migration history and experiences.


Since 2020, Vietnam has been a “Global Partner” in Germany’s Development Cooperation Strategy through 2030 (BMZ 2030). According to Steinmeier, Germany and Vietnam are export nations, so they face similar challenges and have few things in common. During the Vietnam visit, a big business delegation accompanied the president.

“We have many similar interests in the area of economic cooperation, infrastructure, the transformation from agricultural to industrial nation. Germany supports Vietnam in ecological restructuring of energy supply through the just energy transition partnership (JETP) and it would assist Vietnam in mastering its tasks,” the president stated.

For years, Germany has been Vietnam’s largest trading partner in Europe and Vietnam is Germany’s biggest trading partner in Southeast Asia. In 2023, two-way trade reached US$12 billion, tripling over the past decade. Germany becomes the fourth biggest investor among European Union countries in Vietnam.

To enhance the relations, the two countries agreed to increase political trust through the exchange of high-ranking visits and at different levels, effectively implement bilateral cooperation mechanisms namely Strategic Dialogue, Joint Committee for Economic Partnership, Governmental Consultation for Cooperation and Development, Dialogue on Rule of Law, and Action Plan for Vietnam-Germany Strategy 2023-2025. 

 Education has become a key pillar in Vietnam-Germany relations.