The 10th VietAbroader Study Abroad Conferences Are Coming!

Posted 17/04/2015 by maavn
Categories: Announcement, Conferences

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sac11-1024x683 (2015)Mark your summer calendar, U.S. higher education colleagues!  I’m pleased to announce that the main 2015 VietAbroader Conferences – Passing of the Torch will be held on Saturday, July 18th in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Sunday, July 19th in Hanoi.

For the first time ever, there will also be conferences in Hue (7/10), Haiphong and Can Tho (7/11), Nghe An and Danang (7/12). With this change VietAbroader demonstrates its commitment to reaching out to underserved communities, educating aspiring young people across Vietnam about U.S. study opportunities and providing them with accurate information and tools with which to make the best decisions for their future. This change will also enable U.S. institutions and schools reach out to a wider and more diverse pool of Vietnamese applicants in the coming years.

Other new features include the following:

  • Interactive Format: Guest speakers will share inspiring stories from applying to U.S. colleges to overcoming challenges abroad.
  • Comprehensive Information: Participants will be given handbooks with accurate, updated information on U.S. college admissions.

There are five (5) institutional sponsorship packages, including Diamond (5k), Platinum (4k), Gold (3k), Silver (2k) and Bronze (1k). (These costs are for Hanoi and HCMC only.) There is currently one Platinum slot left and the Gold, Silver and Bronze slots are wide open.  The registration deadline is May 15, 2015.

vac 2015Follow this link to download both sponsorship documents: Benefits Information for Institutional Sponsors and the Conference Proposal. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Ms. Thu Pham (anhthu.pham [AT], Co-President, or Ms. Thu Diem, Head of Partners & Sponsors, (anhthu.diem [AT]

The conferences include morning seminars that provide pre-screened attendees and their parents with information about U.S. education and fairs in the afternoon that are free and open to the public, where students and parents can meet face-to-face with currently enrolled students, alumni and official representatives of more than 100 U.S. institutions. Here is the tentative agenda (as of March 2015):

  • 08:00 –08:40    Check-in
  • 08:45–09:10     Opening Ceremony & Keynote Speech
  • 09:10 –09:30    Presentation: Why Study in the U.S.?
  • 09:30 –10:00    Experience Sharing: Opportunities & Challenges in the U.S.
  • 10:00 –10:30    Experience Sharing: Pursuing Your Dreams
  • 10:30 –10:45    Break
  • 10:45 –11:30    Discussion in Small groups
  • 11:30 –11:45    School Quizzes
  • 11:45 –12:00    Closing Ceremony
  • 12:00 –14:00    Lunch Break & Networking
  • 14:00 –17:00    College Fair with Representatives from Over 100 U.S. Institutions

What is VietAbroader (VA)?


Then US Ambassador to Vietnam, Michael Michalak, and I after delivering introductory remarks at the 2009 VAC in Hanoi.

VA is Vietnam’s premier student-run nonprofit that provides students with information and guidance to encourage them to study abroad, primarily in the United States. The VA Study Abroad Conference (VAC), the organization’s flagship program, was launched in 2005. I had the honor of speaking at the first Hanoi conference. It is also my honor to serve as one of four VietAbroader advisers, a position I have held since the organization’s founding 11 years ago. When I joined the VA forum in 2004, before it evolved into a full-fledged student organization, there were only a few hundred members. There were over 80,000 when the forum was phased out last August in favor of Facebook and a more interactive website.

Every year, it is my pleasure to help VA’s leadership reach out to potential institutional sponsors. Why should U.S. colleges and universities that welcome Vietnamese students to their campuses consider becoming a VAC sponsor? Because it’s one of the most popular and widely publicized events of its kind, and will help you brand and market your school to a large and targeted audience.  Capstone Vietnam, of which I’m managing director, is a corporate sponsor of the VACs and a long-term VietAbroader partner, along with IDG Ventures Vietnam and EducationUSA.


Hanoi’s First-Ever US Embassy-Sponsored Higher Education Fair

Posted 14/04/2015 by maavn
Categories: Commentary, Events

Tags: , , , , ,


Welcome to the newest kid on the US higher education fair block, which has expanded considerably in the past 10 years.  I’m pleased to see that the US Embassy has its very own higher education fair along the lines of the Institute of International Education-Vietnam fairs of yesteryear.  In a sense and in this particular area, strategic partners have become friendly competitors.

Below is a description of the first-ever EducationUSA higher education fair, which took place on 30 January in Hanoi.


Did you know that over 16,000 Vietnamese students are studying in the United States right now?

Do you want to join them?

If so, please come to Hanoi’s First-Ever US Embassy sponsored Education Fair

It’s FREE.

U.S. Ambassador Ted Osius will make opening remarks!  (In my opinion, Ted Osius, who arrived in late December, has the potential of becoming one of the better US ambassadors to Vietnam, perhaps in the same league as the ambassador he served during his first tour in Vietnam, Pete Peterson.
You can meet more than 40 representatives from U.S. universities and colleges!
You can learn about the application process!
You can find out more about educational exchange programs!
You can learn about visas and hear from students who have been to America!

Here’s a link to the fair agenda and the list of 44 participating colleges and universities.

educationusa_fair_jan2015This is yet another example of US Mission Vietnam offering a service that it used to outsource to IIE, a process that begin in earnest in the fall of 2009, when the US Embassy and Consulate General took over the EducationUSA advising centers in both cities.  This issue was discussed in a 10.1.10 diplomatic cable, entitled Education Reform In Vietnam: Everyone Being Left Behind, officially penned by then Ambassador Michael Michalak, the self-proclaimed Education Ambassador:

EdUSA Student Advising Centers, which have been operated by IIE under a grant from ECA to promote study in the U.S., will soon be housed within the Embassy’s and Consulate’s Public Affairs Sections (PAS), which will give the USG greater control over the Centers’ activities and ensure that they continue to provide objective and comprehensive advice to students interested in studying in the U.S. free of charge. The move from IIE to PAS will reduce annual operating expenses from $400,000 to $160,000.  (Note:  This process, the result of political and financial considerations, occurred in other countries, too.  The backstory to this official about-face warrants a post or article of its own, in the opinion of a former quasi-insider.)

The only surprise is that it didn’t happen sooner.  It was an opportunity waiting to be exploited, yet another way for the USG to exercise soft power in a vitally important area related to young people, education.  US Mission Vietnam can control the message and cover its costs at the same time.  That’s the best of both worlds from an official standpoint.


Taking Vietnam to the Next Level: The Role of Education

Posted 09/04/2015 by maavn
Categories: Conferences, Presentation

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I recently had the opportunity to speak to members of UPCEA at its 100th annual conference and post-conference international briefing with a focus on Southeast Asia: Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam – Higher Education in Context.  The University Professional & Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) is the leading association for professional, continuing, and online education in the US.

Below a description of my international briefing presentation:

speaker2015 is a year of several noteworthy anniversaries in Vietnam of historical and personal significance.  40 years since the end of the war, 20 years since the normalization of relations between Vietnam and the US and 10 years since I moved to Hanoi.

This presentation will include information, insights and observations gleaned from nearly a decade of living and working in Vietnam as an educational entrepreneur, first for a US international education NGO whose slogan is Opening Minds to the World and, since 2009, for a Vietnamese educational consulting company whose slogan is Reaching New Heights.

The theme of the discussion is “taking Vietnam to the next level” – innovation over imitation, substance over image, veracity over veneer – and the contributions that education can make, including international educational exchange.  The latter includes student recruitment, student and faculty exchanges, study abroad programs, service learning and internships, education and training programs, including online, etc.

Vietnam is a country on the move.  Daunting obstacles overcome. Suffering redeemed. Phenomenal progress achieved. New summits yet to be conquered.  How can your institution benefit from incorporating Vietnam into its internationalization strategy?  What contributions can you make to help take Vietnam to the next level under the rubric of global service and in the spirit of doing well and doing good?

Jill Biden, one of my fellow speakers and wife of US Vice President Joe Biden.

Dr. Jill Biden, one of my fellow speakers and wife of US Vice President Joe Biden. Dr. Biden was the conference keynote speaker.

I also spoke at an innovation roundtable named after my blog (with an extra dose of “intrigue”!) and at a meeting of the UPCEA International Network about student recruitment in Vietnam.  Thank you, UPCEA, for the opportunity to speak to your members about two of my favorite topics, international education and Vietnam!





Vietnam Now Ranks 7th Among All Sending Countries (!)

Posted 01/04/2015 by maavn
Categories: Announcement, Updates

Tags: , , , , ,

2-15 top 10 countries

According to the latest SEVIS by the Numbers quarterly update from February 2015, a real-time data snapshot of international enrollment in the US, including secondary and postsecondary levels, Vietnam now ranks 7th among all places of origin with 25,982 students, surpassing Taiwan (23,503) and nipping at the heels of Japan (26,187).  If the current trend continues, Vietnam will certainly overtake Japan as the #6 sending country in the near future.

The increase of 11% over October 2014 was the highest among the top 10 sending countries.  (India was 2nd with 9%.)  Among key countries in Asia, Chinese students held steady while the number of students from South Korea, Japan and Taiwan declined 1.2%, 10.9% and 4%, respectively.

2-15 a closer look at asia

Follow these links to download the February 2015 quarterly update (PDF) and to check out the new interactive guide to SEVIS data.

Vietnam remains one of the fastest growing markets in the world for US-bound international students, a trend I predicted (sometimes you get lucky!) and expect to continue for the foreseeable future.


Protected: Resources for UPCEA Colleagues (March-April 2015)

Posted 31/03/2015 by maavn
Categories: Announcement, Updates

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US Education Admission – By Hook or By Crook

Posted 22/03/2015 by maavn
Categories: Commentary

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Everyone knows of the smart kid who decided to apply “DIY” and then wasn’t accepted—and they don’t want to risk being  the next one. Unfortunately, there’s a sense in China that the honest applicants are the chumps. (What Students in China Have Taught Me About U.S. College Admissions, Terry Crawford, The Atlantic, 6.1.15)

fraudThere’s editing and then there’s EDITING.  You know, the kind when it looks like admission essays supposedly written by the same student look like they were written by two different people – one by the student him/herself and the other by a paid (native-speaker or US-educated?) “helper” with a more sophisticated mastery of the language and a much more extensive vocabulary.

Need some help with that pesky essay?  Let your fingers do the writing, copy and paste-style.  Just Google it!  From the perspective of those of us who have read our fair share of admission essays over the years it’s easy as pie to spot “enhanced” essays over the garden-variety ones.

Speaking of Google, the best thing since sliced bread and itself a double-edged sword, it’s also easy to spot language that was permanently borrowed from another source without attribution.  Enter the suspicious-looking phrase with the big words into Google’s magic search engine (or any number of sites designed to detect plagiarism), hit enter and, bingo, there’s the original source!

no cheatingAs China goes, so too, Vietnam, among other countries in Asia and elsewhere.  As the above Atlantic article makes clear, one popular way to gain a competitive edge is to cheat and deceive.  That’s a sad lesson to teach young people who end up becoming co-conspirators in their own admission process.  The silver lining is that those students who are admitted to US secondary or postsecondary education quickly discover the importance of academic honesty and the risks of academic dishonesty because it’s one of the topics covered in international student orientations is academic dishonesty, including plagiarism.  Every institution has an academic honor code and punishment is general severe for those – US and international students – caught violating this or any other aspect of it.


One Less Finger in the Dike: Financial Autonomy & VN Higher Education

Posted 19/03/2015 by maavn
Categories: Articles, Commentary

Tags: , , , , , ,
At least seven public universities in Vietnam have applied for “financial autonomy” since the government promised late last year that it would give them full control over fiscal affairs, including setting their own tuition rates. 
Two of the applicants – Ton Duc Thang University and University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City – have so far got the permission.

This trend, which began in 2006 with increased autonomy for public universities, including student recruitment, will only accelerate in the years to come.  Other well-known and widely respected universities such a Foreign Trade University (FTU), Hanoi University and the HCMC University of Industry, are still awaiting approval.

As this 11 March 2015 article, Vietnam public colleges sever ties with state, handle own coffers, points out, tuition at Ton Duc Thang University and the HCMC University of Economics will be significantly higher than state limits, currently set at VND550,000-VND800,000 (US$25-40) a month.  The economics faculty will charge students about $600 a year, increasing to $667 this fall and again to $760 next year.

 Students pay tuition at HCMC University of Industry. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach (Courtesy of Thanh Nien News)

Students pay tuition at HCMC University of Industry. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach (Courtesy of Thanh Nien News)

Since there are very few free lunches in life, the trade-off for “complete freedom”, e.g., no tuition caps, is the disappearance of state funding.  What we’re witnessing is nothing less than the transformation of some of Vietnam’s top public institutions from state-funded to independent non-profit entities.  This makes sense in a country in which the economy is rapidly expanding, income and wealth are increasing exponentially and education is highly valued.

Financial autonomy has the potential of benefiting universities and the students they serve in myriad ways, assuming they have visionary leaders and a good system of checks and balances.  Ideally, it will result in improved quality as a result of higher faculty and staff salaries, reduced workload, smaller class sizes, better infrastructure, more student services, etc.  As at universities in other countries, differential tuition means that less popular but strategically important fields of study will be subsidized by some of the more popular programs.  My hope is also that money is set aside in the form of merit- and need-based scholarships for academically qualified but low-income students so that they, too, can benefit from a quality higher education without going into debt.

The times they are a-changin’ in Vietnamese higher education!




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