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The first Vietnamese university to provide a common room on campus

 

Dr Vu Thi Quy second from right received a Certificate of Participation from the Australian Awards Short Course Women in Leadership Journey
Dr Vu Thi Quy (second from right) received a Certificate of Participation from the Australian Awards Short Course – Women in Leadership Journey.

Education & Times Newspaper – Everyday, after her university duties, Dr Vu Thi Quy, Deputy Head of Administration and Service Department, Thai Nguyen University of Agriculture and Forestry goes to the empty room at the third floor of the university’s central building, then imagines where to arrange the microwave, refrigerator for her project to design a university common room. “I think about this project every day and look forward to its commencement,” shared Dr Quy.

A special project

The idea of a project to design a common room for lecturers, staff, and students of Thai Nguyen University of Agriculture and Forestry by Ms Quy was inspired by her training in Australia. As a participant of an Australia Awards Short Course – Women in Leadership Journey, Dr Quy attended six weeks training at Flinders University (Adelaide, South Australia). The common room at Flinders University made a strong and special impression on her. 

“During my studies in Australia, I saw that universities provide a common room for people to have a rest and to use a computer; the room also has a kitchen, refrigerator, microwave to reheat or cook food. I wondered why we do not have a common room like this at our university with 600 staff? My ideas were gradually developed into a project after the course,” said Dr Quy. 

Dr Quy’s project is relatively special compared to others in this course because it relates to the university’s infrastructure which is exactly in line with her duties. Her objective is to design two common rooms and two rooms for women at the central building and at two main lecture halls where female students defend their theses and dissertations. In these halls, there is no space for their relatives, for female students to look after small children and to prepare and wait to defend their dissertations before the council. 

How to sustainably maintain the common room 

Dr Vu Thi Quy at the room planned to be used as a gender based common room
Dr Vu Thi Quy at the room planned to be used as a gender-based common room for lecturers, staff, and students of Thai Nguyen University of Agriculture and Forestry 

Quy carefully prepared her project presentation in front of the University Management Board. At the beginning the project proposed to use one room at the central building. When the project operates effectively, it will be expanded to the other rooms. Many questions which were asked to Dr Quy by the Board pointed out difficulties she will confront with when the project is implemented. 

The first challenge is funding. Because the common room will be used by all staff, lecturers, and students, which means all university members benefit from the project, the university fully supported the project at the first stage. The University Management Board agreed with Quy’s proposal to invest more than 500 million Vietnam Dong. Due to slow disbursement of funds for the central building investment project, the university leadership agreed to invest in the common room from other budgetary sources in 2019. 

The second challenge is how to operate the common room in the long run. Ms Quy considered all matters: installing security cameras, setting regulations concerning awards, management, etc. Since the university does not assign additional staff, Quy set out a plan to mobilize officers of Administration and Services Department. Ms Quy decided that she might need to work directly at the common room to maintain the project. “I think the university staff and lecturers will use the facilities with due care and responsibility. With this attitude, the common room can be operated on a sustainable basis.” 

Besides, Thai Nguyen University of Agriculture and Forestry has moved towards autonomy. The common room will also operate as a services facility, like a canteen. At this stage, revenue from its services will be used to “hire” one full-time staff. The difference of the common room with ordinary canteens is that people have free access to clean water, air conditioners, Wi-Fi connection, and a place to enjoy their homemade food – as long as they clean up their places before leaving. At this time, the University Management Board approved the design of the common room with a beautiful view at the third floor of the central building. 

Implementing the project by learning from international experience

In order to determine the most effective operational model for the common room at the University, Dr Quy plans to consult Australian experts about management models, staff assignment, application of managerial skills in operating the common room. For Dr Quy, managing a common room is not an easy matter. It requires a range of skills: leadership, listening, inspiration, delegation, support and allocation of staff. Especially, managers should respect differences, know how to take criticism and have critical thinking. With these skills and knowledge, she can manage not only the common room smoothly and successfully but also daily duties. 

Currently, Dr Quy has focused on furnishing the first common room within 2019. Her fellow participants in the Women in Leadership Journey at Tay Bac University also look forward to visiting the common room at the Thai Nguyen University of Agriculture and Forestry to learn and then advise their Management Board to adopt this model at Tay Bac. 

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“I do not want to use the university’s budget for this project due to our financial constraints. I have been raising funds from available sources. The operation of the common room will be a success for the university and for me. This is also a milestone in my career as well as my studies in Australia”- said Dr Quy.

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Source: Translation of an article on Education and Times Newspaper