The University College of Northern Denmark (UCN) will launch its revered Bachelor’s of Architectural Technology and Construction Management – ATCM in Vietnam in 2017, at the University of Architecture in Ho Chi Minh City.
René Larsen is the Asia Director of the UCN Global Office, and has been responsible for introducing the course to students in Asia. As BSBG has just recently established a new office in Ho Chi Minh City, Mark Vaughan, a Senior Architectural Technologist himself, and the former Office Manager for Vietnam during the establishment phase, took the opportunity to invite René to the newly designed BSBG offices. There they discussed what the ATCM course is able to offer students, as well as the current state of the architecture industry in Vietnam, and the shifting landscape in Asia in terms of quality and sustainability in buildings.
The ATCM course is highly regarded throughout Europe, and graduates find themselves able to enter the architectural industry at a high level once they graduate. And while Architectural Technology is still a relatively new concept in Asia, as René says, the appetite for the level of advancement that Architectural Technologists bring to projects in the industry is growing rapidly.
“I think previously there was a demand for a Return on Investment (ROI) that didn’t surpass three years. And what this does is effectively lower the quality of the materials used in the buildings, having an impact on sustainability and efficiency,” René tells us. “But if you were to ask a building owner what they would prefer, a building with an ROI of three years but that lasts three to five, or a building that lasts for 20 to 25 years, costs two or three percent more initially and brings an ROI after 10 years, the option is clear. This message is getting through, and it’s a message we certainly hope to continue to spread through the ATCM.”The ATCM programme will be launched in Vietnam in September 2017, and René explains that the take up has exceeded expectations, and the popularity of the course is likely to see all placements filled by the launch. “Right now we are recruiting students, and it’s not been without its challenges,” René says. “This is mainly because a Bachelor’s in Architectural Technology and Construction Management is something that’s brand new to Vietnam. But Denmark does have a great reputation for architecture across the world, and this has helped the course to gain traction. In Denmark, the ATCM Bachelor’s is well-established, and in fact we actually have more Architectural Technologists than Architects now in our country. ”
The establishment of the ATCM in Vietnam has been five years in the making, as the same standards of the Danish programme are implemented to the finest detail. The UCN counts the ATCM as its flagship programme, and has gone to great lengths to ensure the Vietnam version mirrors precisely the offering for students in Denmark.
“What we are doing here is something completely new for us, but our perspective is that the students will gain knowledge of an emerging market, not a richly established one such as Europe or Denmark itself,” René says. “Our investment has been huge in both time and from a financial perspective, because we run it exactly the same as in Denmark. The programmes are the same, the lectures are the same, the exams are the same. We can send Danish students to take a semester here, just as we could send Vietnamese students to Denmark. We believe with this set up, we can achieve a great deal of success in a five-to-ten-year period.”
Students on the ATCM Bachelor’s Degree will be studying at the highly regarded University of Architecture in Ho Chi Minh City. For UCN, it made more sense to partner up with a well-established institution rather than building a campus themselves, as René tells us: “It would have been a lot more costly to build a campus, but also we take the view that a bilateral diplomatic international educational offering with a local university puts our course in a stronger position to attract students.”
But it’s not only the partnership aspect that students are likely to find attractive. René informs us that the ATCM has been running in Denmark for more than 50 years, producing technologists that find themselves moving into positions such as project managers, lead engineers, team leaders, and even office managers within a short period of time in their careers, because through the course they have gained knowledge of the whole supply chain. And now with the introduction of the course to Asia for the first time, the hope is that the region will be able to keep its brightest students, rather than losing them to more esteemed courses overseas. For UCN however, much like BSBG, there were numerous reasons to move into Asia, and in particular to focus on Vietnam.
“Asia as a market is extremely important to architecture, and Architectural Technology especially,” René says. “Two thirds of the global growth of Architectural Technology is here in this region, and we chose Vietnam because, while we do have to focus on the economical aspect, we also need to improve quality through our offering in, and we want to enter markets where we can gain something far more important than profit. We want knowledge and educational export. We have an interest in getting our staff and students into a setting where they can share and exchange knowledge. Asia is now the biggest market in the world, and we want our people and our nation to learn about this market and be inside it. Because it’s new, it’s challenging. But what we try to emphasise is that those that come out of this course will be looking at management roles in the future. Huge career opportunities. More options to develop their career than if they study architecture on its own.”
The course itself is unique in that students are required to complete a 20-week internship as part of the course. BSBG is one of the architects that students will find themselves able to work alongside, and it is this hands-on experience gained during the course that positions graduates so well to be able to skip entry-level positions in companies, and go straight into the industry at an advanced level.
“The internship always comes towards the end of the Bachelor’s Degree, and the good thing with our institute is that the internship is mandatory,” René explains. “This is because we feel that the relation between the practical work and theoretical is extremely important. Each student completes 20 weeks as an intern, and during that time they will learn to apply what they have learned in a real-world environment, so to speak.”
For students, the opportunity to gain hands-on experience, and to be positioned advantageously once graduating are two very attractive propositions represented by the ATCM degree, but in relation to the architectural market in Vietnam, René says there is still work to be done to make developers and companies aware of the need for technologists as well as architects.
“Perhaps in Vietnam now there isn’t a complete understanding of the need for Architectural Technologists,” he says. “But that was the same in the UK maybe 10 to 15 years ago. It was certainly the same in Denmark too, but now there are more Architectural Technologists than Architects. Why? Because they have realised that for long term sustainable developments, the Architectural Technologist is simply indispensable. You need to invest in the long term, and I feel they are starting to learn this here.
“The market in Asia is booming, and we see that not only in Vietnam, but in Singapore and Japan especially. Architectural Technology in this area is a wise investment, because if you look at the construction industry as a whole in the region, there’s a need for a great deal of improvement. You have many students going overseas to work and to get their qualifications because the whole set up of the industry here makes it very difficult to get into. When they succeed in making a big project, the quality at the moment just isn’t comparable to what we see in Europe and the West. There’s no sustainability, no energy efficiency, but I’m sure we will see the market really start to emerge in terms of standards. They are starting to realise the need for higher quality, but they don’t know what to do to get it. So with the ATCM here, that’s what we hope to do – to contribute to the enhancement of the quality, the sustainability and the energy efficiency of buildings in Vietnam.”
For his part, Mark Vaughan gave a glowing review of the UCN ATCM Bachelor’s Degree and its establishment in Vietnam. “René and his team have done a fantastic job in bringing the world-renowned ATCM from UCN in Denmark to Asia. With the reputation and the proven track record of the course, this can only have a positive impact on the architecture industry in Vietnam and Asia as a whole. I think the push for sustainable and efficient developments will really kick start from here, and I’m also delighted that BSBG are able to count UCN as a a partner. We see the ATCM as having great potential to offer us quality future recruitment opportunities here in Vietnam, and in fact we have just offered a six-month internship to one student on the ATCM Bachelor’s in Denmark, and we already have a UCN graduate working full-time in our Dubai office too, so I think this speaks to how highly we regard the course here at BSBG,” Mark concluded.
BSBG is a partner of the ATCM in Ho Chi Minh City, and is sponsoring the two students that finish second and third in a competition entitled: ‘Scholarship for GREEN Environment” currently being held by UCN. The two students will receive a contribution from BSBG towards an ATCM scholarship.
The Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT), with whom BSBG has a long-standing relationship, will sponsor the student who finishes in first position.
You can also watch Mark Vaughan’s announcement of BSBG sponsorship in this video on Facebook, by clicking here.