The Agony of Choice

A Proliferation of Overseas Study Destinations for Vietnamese Students

The number of possible overseas study destinations is increasing for Vietnamese students, which is an encouraging trend for both them and their families. Below are the top 10 most expensive and inexpensive countries to study in, according to a 22.9.16 Independent article entitled Germany and Sweden named the cheapest places to attend university.

Many of these countries offer long-term work and even emigration opportunities, if so desired.  All of the top five host countries this year are among the most expensive countries to study in except China.  Together, they host about 110,000 young Vietnamese.  Keep in mind that there are plentiful scholarship and work opportunities for Japan-bound Vietnamese students.

  1. Japan
  2. USA
  3. Australia
  4. China
  5. Singapore

The top five countries are in bold red and other countries with significant numbers of Vietnamese students are in bold blue.  There are others not listed here that have identified Viet Nam as a strategic priority, including Ireland and the Netherlands.  More choices equals more competition for the top host countries.

Country Average tuition fee Average living cost Average annual total
USA £31,296 £14,403 £45,699
Australia £18,611 £12,654 £31,265
New Zealand £16,905 £12,006 £28,912
Canada £15,732 £8,268 £24,140
Hong Kong £12,626 £6,336 £18,963
United Kingdom £8,994 £9,233 £18,227
Singapore £11,882 £5,796 £17,678
Israel £2,555 £13,932 £16,487
Switzerland £1,152 £14,797 £15,949
Japan £6,111 £8,361 £14,471

Least expensive countries to study in

1 Germany* £331 £6,369 £6,701
2 Sweden* £13 £6,694 £6,707
3 South Africa £3,496 £3,452 £6,948
4 Finland* £88 £7,226 £7,313
5 Taiwan £2,498 £5,006 £7,503
6 Denmark £0 £8,193 £8,193
7 Austria £650 £7,651 £8,301
8 Belgium £741 £7,849 £8,590
9 Russia £4,665 £4,627 £9,292
10 Norway £110 £9,202 £9,313

Choosing Clients & Partners is a Two-Way Street: Quality Matters

Money is how companies with no ethical compass measure success.2-way-street

The company I work for, Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company founded in 2009, with offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), works exclusively with regionally accredited (RA) institutions of higher education in the US.  As far as I know, it’s the only company in Viet Nam, and indeed the world, that has this policy. (If you know of another, let me know!  A prize to the first person whose answer I’m able to confirm.)

Why?  Because quality and integrity are more important than money.  Since regional accreditation is the gold standard of institutional accreditation in the US, students and parents can be assured that minimum standards of quality have been met and maintained.  US higher education fair attendees can be assured that there are no “bad apples” in the ballroom.  US higher education colleagues who choose to work with the company can be assured of honor by association. Capstone has politely declined to work with quite a few schools because the company you keep and the standards you uphold take precedence over cash flow.

Nationally accredited (NA) institutions, while “officially accredited,” are not in the same academic league as their RA cousins.  In fact, in terms of quality and ethics, some of them comprise a veritable rogue’s gallery of schools, including those that are essentially visa mills.  Moreover, the majority of these schools do not inform students and parents that most RA institutions will not accept credits and credentials transferred from NA schools.  Why is that, I wonder?

gold-standardFor most educational consulting companies, it’s all about “showing me the money”, which means they’ll work with anyone who can afford to pay them, including rogue providers (unaccredited schools), in some cases.  Money is how companies with no ethical compass measure success.  For Capstone, it’s about quality first, which I find refreshing in the often murky and foul world of educational consulting.


Enrollment of Vietnamese Students at US Universities & Colleges Up by 640% Since 2001/02


According to Open Doors data, the number of international students in the U.S. universities and colleges from 2001/02 to 2014/15 increased by 67% to reach nearly 975,000 students. That increase for Viet Nam was 640%, which places it among the top five sending countries that have experienced a growth rate of over 100%.

As the authors of this analysis point out, the solid growth illustrates the post-9/11 resilience of US institutions of higher education among international students.  Whether or not this trend continues may be decided by the results of the upcoming presidential election.

For more information, follow this link to post on DrEducation’s website, based on this 11 September 2016 Forbes article.  Keep up the good work, Rahul!


Viet Nam Still Ranks 6th Among All Sending Countries in Int’l Enrollment

7-16 sevis viet nam

There are currently 1.11 million F and M students studying in the United States, a 5.5 percent increase since July 2015, according to the latest SEVIS by the Numbers report.

Viet Nam remains in 6th place, behind Canada and ahead of Japan, with 26,209 students at all levels, as of July 2016.  (That figure was 29,101 in March 2016.  Keep in mind that there is always a decrease after graduation.)

Viet Nam recorded the second highest percentage increase among the major sending countries with a 7.9% YOY (July 2015-July 2016) increase that was exceeded only by India at 28.5%.  I expect this trend to continue.


44 Signatories Urge Bob Kerrey to Resign from Fulbright University Viet Nam Position

Photo:  US State Department via The New York Times

Below is a letter that was sent to Bob Kerrey about his controversial appointment as chairman of the Fulbright University Viet Nam board of trustees, announced by John Kerry during President Obama’s May 2016 visit to Viet Nam.  In case you’re interested and are not up-to-date on this situation, here are some articles that have appeared since:

When Phoenix Came to Thanh Phong: Bob Kerrey and War Crimes as Policy in Vietnam by Douglas Valentine (7.6.16; a reprint of a May 2001 article published after the story of his war crime broke that spring)

Bob Kerrey and the ‘American Tragedy’ of Vietnam by Viet Thanh Nguyen (20.6.16)

Bob Kerrey and Fulbright University – What were they thinking? by Mark A. Ashwill (8.7.16)

Fulbright University Vietnam – ‘Put this war behind us’ by Mary Beth Marklein (16.7.16)

Bob Kerrey’s Unit Slaughtered Civilians in Vietnam; Why Was He Appointed to Chair Fulbright University? by John Marciano (23.8.16)

Bob Kerrey, Fulbright University, and the Neoliberal Erasure of History by Paul Street (1.9.16)

I will continue adding names and sending updated versions to Bob Kerrey.  The names in red are the original signatories.

7 September 2016

Dear Mr. Kerrey,

We are writing with the heartfelt and urgent request that you resign from your position as chairman of the Fulbright University Viet Nam (FUV) board of trustees.

It is our firm belief that you should never have been offered this appointment and, having been offered it, should have declined the offer.  We strongly believe that there are other more appropriate roles for you to play in support of FUV, and that there are better qualified people without your historical baggage.

Mark Bowyer, an expat in Viet Nam, expressed doubt in an early June 2016 blog post that “reminding the world of previously unpunished US atrocities in Viet Nam is a judicious use of the political capital accumulated during Barack Obama’s recent successful visit.”

Shawn McHale, a George Washington University colleague, wrote the following comment in response to your interview with WBUR’s “Here & Now” program:

Bob Kerrey is letting his ego get in the way of US-Vietnamese rapprochement. The man has done a lot of good — but killing civilians, a war crime, makes him unfit to be head of the Fulbright University Vietnam Board of Trustees. For the good of the university, he should recognize that he is not the person for the job.

Finally, Linh Dinh, a Vietnamese-American writer, poet, and a signatory to this letter, wrote that “This sick and vain spectacle is hurting not just him but the university. By hanging on, he’s focusing the spotlight on his war crime.”

We agree with these assessments. Your appointment is a politically- and emotionally-charged issue that is not going to go away, least of all in Viet Nam.  In early June, you told the New York Times via email that you would resign, if you felt your role were jeopardizing FUV.  That time is now.

There are many US veterans who have returned to Viet Nam to do penance, so to speak, some on short trips and others for the long haul.  They are each making a modest contribution, trying to find a way to give back, to make amends, to make whole that which they and their government tried to destroy.  On a personal level, as you can imagine, they also find this experience to be therapeutic and even cathartic.

We’d like to take the liberty of offering you some advice.  Travel to Thanh Phong.  Arrange to meet with the victims’ family members and the survivors.  Ask for their forgiveness.  Burn incense and pray at the graves of the people you and your unit killed.  And do all of this with the greatest sincerity, contrition, and humility.

Offer to meet a local need, to build something of lasting value that will benefit the community.  We believe that these acts will be greatly appreciated and may help you find a measure of peace.  You could even invite the other members of your unit to join you.

Thank you for taking the time to read our note.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Wishing you peace and happiness,

Mark A. Ashwill, Ph.D.
Hanoi, Viet Nam
Educator; First US American to be awarded a Fulbright Senior Specialist Grant to Viet Nam, 2003
Author of Bob Kerrey and Fulbright University – What were they thinking? (7-8-16)

Patrick Barrett, Ph.D.
Madison, WI
Havens Center for Social Justice
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dennis Berg, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, CSU, Fullerton
Vietnam (S.E. Asia) Workshop Facilitator (1991-2016)
Fulbright, VEF, SSRC, USSH-VNU Faculty Scholar in Vietnam
Awarded Vietnam’s National Medal for Higher Education

John Chen
Long Beach, California

Robert Chenoweth
UH-1 Helicopter Crew Chief 1967-68
POW from February 1968 to March 1973

Dr. Stephen Cottrell
S/Sgt,Vietnam 66′ 67′
0311 grunt, I Corps,Zulu Company
Fulbright Ambassador Emeritus

Herbert Covert
Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Anthropology
University of Colorado Boulder
Fulbright Scholar with the Department of Geology and Minerals of Vietnam 2001-02
Fulbright Scholar with the Institute of Tropical Biology of Vietnam 2008-09

Linh Dinh
Philadelphia, PA
Political essayist, fiction writer, poet and translator. Author of Postcards from the End of America

John V H Dippel
Executive Director
Teachers for Vietnam
Salisbury, CT

Daniel Ellsberg
Berkeley, CA
Former Foreign Service Office (Reserve) in Saigon, 1965-67
Author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

W. D. Ehrhart
Haverford, PA
formerly Sergeant, USMC
Author of Vietnam-Perkasie: A Combat Marine Memoir
Editor of Carrying the Darkness: Poetry of the Vietnam War

Mark Hallett
Fort Collins, CO

Mike Hastie
Portland, OR
Army Medic Vietnam

C. J. Hopkins
Berlin, Germany
Playwright, author of Horse Country, The Extremists, and screwmachine/eyecandy, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Big Bob

Sanford Kelson
Conneaut Lake, PA
Lawyer, Labor Arbitrator, Educator – Lessons of the Vietnam War

Soren Kirchner
American Global Management Association

Ann Hibner Koblitz
Tempe, AZ
Professor of Women and Gender Studies, Arizona State University
and Director of the Kovalevskaia Fund

Neal Koblitz
Seattle, WA
Professor of Mathematics, University of Washington

Dr. Deepa Kumar
New Brunswick, NJ
Professor of Media Studies, Rutgers University
Activist, Unionist, Author

John Marciano
Talent, OR
Professor Emeritus, State University of New York
Author, American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration?

Shawn McHale 
Associate Professor of History and International Affairs
Elliott School of International Affairs
George Washington University
Washington, D.C.

Tom Miller
Berkeley, CA
President, Green Cities Fund
Co-founder, Center for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery established in Saigon in 1966 to treat war-injured children
Co-founder Vietnam Green Building Council

Greg Nagle, Ph.D.
Hanoi, Viet Nam
Scientific Researcher/Faculty Member

Michael Montesano
ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore

Dzung Kieu Nguyen
Ph.D., Economics, SUNY Albany

Le Minh Nguyen
Hanoi, Viet Nam
London School of Economics

Viet Thanh Nguyen
Los Angeles, CA
Aerol Arnold Chair of English and Associate Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California
Author of The Sympathizer, Awards: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author
Author of Bob Kerrey and the ‘American Tragedy’ of Vietnam (6-20-16)

T.T Nhu
Berkeley, CA

Andrew Pearson
Kittery Point, ME
TV news and documentaries

Deryle Perryman
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Documentary Filmmaker
Producer/Director: Same Same But Different
Artillery Crew Chief, Central Highlands, 1967-68

Hiep Pham

Peter Shaw
State College, PA
Korean War veteran, co-founder of the State College Peace Center and creator of its documentary film series, lifetime member of Veterans for Peace

Daniel Shea
Portland, OR
Marine Corps Combat Viet Nam 1968 Veteran, Agent Orange Survivor, co-founder of Education Without Borders and Board Member of Veterans for Peace

John Stauber
Madison, WI
Founder, Center for Media and Democracy
Author of books, including Weapons of Mass Deception

Jeffrey St. Clair
Portland, OR
Editor of CounterPunch; Author of Born Under a Bad Sky

David Swanson
Charlottesville, VA
Director, World Beyond War
Author of books, including War Is A Lie

Paul Street
Iowa City, IA
Journalist and author of Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics

Fred Tomasello, Jr.
Cheektowaga, NY
Former platoon commander, forward air controller and casualty assistance officer during the Vietnam War
US Postal Service (Retired)

Michael Uhl, Ph.D.
Walpole, ME
Author Vietnam Awakening: My Journey from Combat to the Citizens Commission of Inquiry on US War Crimes and The War I Survived Was Vietnam: Collected Writings of a Veteran and Antiwar Activist (Oct. 2016)

Douglas Valentine
Longmeadow, MA
Author of The Phoenix Program

Peter Van Buren
New York City, NY
Former US Diplomat

Giang Vu
Hanoi, Viet Nam
Press Consultant

Brian Willson
Portland, OR
Author of Blood on the Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson
Subject of documentary, Paying the Price For Peace: The Story of S. Brian Willson
Viet Nam veteran, peace activist, and trained attorney

Lý Thái Xuân
Camarill, CA

List of signatories updated on:  29.9.16

Another Rising Star in the World of Overseas Study

255px-Flag_of_Germany.svgGermany is gaining in popularity among growing numbers of young Vietnamese.  What’s not to like?  The prospect of a very inexpensive, world-class education in a country known for its stability, safety, strong and sustainable economy, and superb quality of life. All they have to do is study and master German, no small undertaking in a country in which the most popular foreign languages are English and East Asian languages.

Unlike other countries, Germany’s immigration policy is visionary, having long since recognized the stark and urgent reality that its population is graying (median age: 46.5 years, the 2nd oldest in the world, after Japan) and that it needs to attract sizable numbers of young foreigners who are well-educated in key fields and who like the idea of calling Germany home.

logo.make-it-in-germanyThe Make it in Germany initiative is a great example of a country rolling out the red carpet for individuals from selected countries with selected areas of expertise.  The website is in 12 languages, including Vietnamese, which gives you an idea of Germany’s priorities in terms of sending countries.  High priority professionals include doctors, engineers, scientists and IT specialists, and experts with vocational qualifications

According to the German government, there are nearly 5,800 Vietnamese students in Germany, including 3,588 at a university, 2,181 at a university of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen), 20 at an art school, 3 at a teachers’ training college, and 2 at a school of theology. The most popular states – in descending order – are Berlin, Saxony, Bavaria, and Hessen.  (These data and much more are available hereNote:  The information is in German.)

As someone who has studied, taught, and conducted research in Germany, both before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I encourage more Vietnamese young people to consider this dynamic and innovative country as a place in which to study and, if they wish, work and live for the long term.  The benefits are definitely mutual.