Doubts surrounding billionaire Nguyen Phuong Thao’s money to sponsor Oxford University

Billionaire Nguyen Phuong Thao – CEO of Vietjet

Education Secretary Michelle Donelan told the British House of Commons that her agency is actively investigating the £155 million grant last year by Vietnamese billionaire Nguyen Phuong Thao to Linacre College, an affiliated school of Oxford University.

British media reported on June 14 as just mentioned and also quoted Education Secretary Michelle Donelan that an update on this case will be given in the coming days.

At a debate on a bill on free speech in the House of Representatives on Monday, Conservative MP Julian Lewis asked Education Secretary Michelle Donelan if she is concerned when the Vietnamese billionaire set conditions and renamed the school to fund £155 million. Ms. Thao has close ties to the communist government of Vietnam. This is a place where people rarely enjoy the freedom of speech.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia, Dr. Nguyen Quang A, former Director of the IDS Development Research Institute in Hanoi (self-dissolved) talked about the relationship between businesses and the government in Vietnam as follows:

In Vietnam and China officials use political power to make money from citizens and business owners. The relationship between businesses and the government is the crystallization of corruption. One party uses the money to gain political influence and to enrich themselves while the official uses his power to enrich himself. That is corruption. This relationship is reciprocal,” he said.

Responding to RFA’s questions by text, human rights activist Nguyen Thi Hai Hieu, a fifth-year student studying in the UK, said the British government’s suspicions were completely justified. She said she agreed with the decision to investigate the donation, adding that she suspects it to be a money-laundering case involving the Vietnamese government.

Hieu said she believed that investing in colleges or supporting scholarships for Vietnamese students was a good idea but not necessary even though she considered the British education system to be better than Vietnam’s.

She said Vietnam should prioritize investment in its own education system because there are many disadvantaged areas in the country, where equipment and facilities in schools are still limited.

Thao signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Linacre College on October 31, 2021.

After signing the MoU and receiving the first £50 million of the agreed funding, Linacre College said it would approach the Privy Council, a group of politicians who advise the Queen, to ask to change the school’s name to Thao College.

Critics say that changing the school’s name would lose the history of the college, named after Thomas Linacre, a British scholar, humanities researcher, and physician. Linacre used to treat Sir Thomas More- the author of Utopia, along with Cardinal Wolsey, chief advisor to King Henry VIII. (Translated)

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