Vietnam has been making a significant investment in its higher education. The country’s aims are to build up a sustainable and comprehensive higher education sector that keep pace with dramatic changes in the society and be compatible with the international academic community. Vietnamese higher education institutions, on the other hand, are required to handle growing expectations from a variety of stakeholders and the multi-faceted external world. The study investigates tendencies in universities’ strategic planning and positioning themselves in such a context. Accordingly, strategic plans from 12 sample universities, including both research and applied university groups, were collected and analyzed. The method in use was thematic content analysis. The findings inform considerable imbalance between societal and economic responsibilities that are addressed in strategic plans of the two groups. Vietnamese universities also show a tendency to 'think global – act local'. While getting more involved in the global narratives of international scholarship and excellence, institutions tightly connect their missions with the local economy and society. Overall, university strategic plans reflect a system of expansion in not only scale but also quality.