For a long time many Vietnamese institutions, such as Can Tho University (CTU), Research Institute for Aquaculture I (RIA1), Research Institute for Aquaculture II (RIA2) and Nha Trang University (NTU) have maintained a close relationship with Flemish universities, including Universiteit Ghent (UGhent), the University of Leuven (KU-Leuven) and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). It involves a long-term collaboration in academic training and research in a range of fields where aquaculture has been one of the main focuses. A high number of highly qualified Vietnamese staff has been trained from several Flemish universities. During the past 15 years of collaboration, quite a number of Vietnamese staff, including teaching, research and administrative staff, were involved in both short and long training courses in Belgium. It has strengthened the Vietnamese teaching and research capacity. This has led to enhanced collaboration within Vietnamese universities and between Vietnamese and Belgian universities.
Aquaculture is a very important industry in Vietnam with an annual growth averaging over 12% since 1990. In 2011, Vietnam reached a fisheries production of 5.3 million tons with a contribution of 3.0 million tons (56.6%) from aquaculture. This is equivalent to a turn-over of approximately 6 billion USD. Aquaculture is believed to be essential to meet the future world demand for aquatic food products. While the aquaculture supply of domestic and export markets has expanded, there are issues with the limited human capacity (vocational and higher education) in Vietnam to support and guide its development. There are also growing concerns about economic and environmental sustainability. The main concerns relate to the quality and quantity of domesticated seed, the supply of feed, disease control, the management of environmental impacts (including the carrying capacity of coastal and inland water areas, escapees and nature conservation), extension services, marketing channels, quality control systems and product quality. The latter has been a concern in export markets. Anti-dumping cases have revealed the vulnerability of the sector to external factors related to international trade. More emphasis should be placed on using aquaculture to reduce poverty (food security).
Well trained human resources to run the aquaculture sector sustainably are crucial. Unfortunately, in most fields networking between institutions as well as between institutions and businesses and farmers is weak. For aquaculture, although VIFINet (Vietnam Fisheries and Aquaculture Institution Network) was established in 2005, limited prominent and efficient activity has taken place yet. However VIFINet could be a suitable vehicle to link between institutions and make good use of all the strengths of the partners.
Joint graduate programmes and research based education in aquaculture are thought to be a perfect initiative to promote collaboration in curriculum development and training. It should increase qualification of the students to meet the future aquaculture developments in Vietnam. On the other hand, research based education is also a crucial tool to bring all partners together into a network by sharing the available resources. A nice consequence of sharing is that it strengthens the research capacity of each partner and hence its aim to serve the country.
The programme aims to stimulate collaboration between Vietnamese universities/institutes and Flemish universities thorough networking.