“What International Students Think About U.S. Higher Education” (Revisited)

Attitudes and Perceptions of Prospective Students From Around the World (2015)
New edition, revised and expanded

SH-What-International-Students-Think-About-US-Higher-EducationAccording to the website announcement, this revised and expanded Institute of International Education (IIE) report examines the attitudes and perceptions that international students who are considering studying in the United States have of U.S. higher education and other key study destinations around the world. The following research questions are explored: What attracts students from other countries to study in the United States? What course of study do they intend to pursue? Do they prefer the United States to other key destinations? What are the perceived barriers facing students who wish to study in the United States? The results of surveys conducted in 19 countries are presented together in this comprehensive report.

After downloading and opening this report, I was looking forward to seeing the latest information about Vietnam.  Much to my dismay and disappointment, I found information from a survey I initiated when I was still country director of IIE-Vietnam.  That was over 6 years ago!  Obviously, the only part of the Vietnam section that was “new, revised and expanded” was the introduction.

IIE conducted an online survey in March 2009 of 707 prospective students in Vietnam who had visited the U.S. Department of State-funded EducationUSA advising centers in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi and/or had attended one of the IIE Higher Education Fairs in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi or Danang. Students were surveyed regarding their preferred study destinations, reasons for wishing to study abroad, perceived obstacles, main sources of information on studying in the U.S. and their impressions of five potential host destinations (the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, France and Singapore). (my bold)

The U.S. was the overwhelming first-choice destination for respondents in Vietnam, with 82 percent of respondents listing the U.S. in an open-ended question, followed by eight percent for Australia and five percent for the U.K. (Fig. 23). Australia led among alternative destinations, with 31 percent of the total, followed by the United Kingdom (21 percent) and Singapore (14 percent).

Follow this link to read it yourself.

Given IIE’s close relationship to the US State Department and EducationUSA (its two advisers in the US Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) are former IIE educational advisers and were both involved in the administration of the 2009 survey) and given US Mission Vietnam’s sizable database of student contacts and its reach, especially in Hanoi and HCMC, why not launch a joint online survey to take the nation’s pulse in late 2014 or early 2015?  Six years is a lot of water under the bridge in a rapidly changing country like Vietnam.

Other Reasons to Administer Another Survey

survey imageThe results of the 2009 survey are biased because the student participants were those “who had visited the U.S. Department of State-funded EducationUSA advising centers in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi and/or had attended one of the IIE Higher Education Fairs in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi or Danang.”

A few examples will suffice to prove my point of self-selection sampling.

The US as the “overwhelming first-choice destination” for Vietnamese students:  While I don’t disagree that the US is the preferred destination for Vietnamese students based on current enrollment figures, it strains credulity that the percentage is that high, especially given the number of Vietnamese students studying in Australia and other top five countries (e.g., Japan, China, Singapore).

Top Three Sources of Information About Study in the USA:  77% said the Internet, followed by the EducationUSA advising centers or US Embassy/Consulate General (51%), US higher education fairs or information sessions (48%), friends or classmates (30%), foreign recruiters or school representatives (21%) and teachers/professors (19%).  Conspicuously absent are education agents, which the majority of Vietnamese students and parents use.  This is probably because that was not included as a choice given State’s and therefore IIE’s bias towards agents.  Call it a sin of omission.  (Another point is that many students who use EducationUSA/US Mission services are less likely to work with an education agent.)

Gender breakdown:  62.9% female vs. 37.1% male, which may be representative of students who visited EducationUSA advising centers and attended IIE and US Mission education-related events but is not representative of Vietnamese students studying, or planning to study, in the US.

Note:  I discussed some of these issues in this 11 March 2010 post, one month after the Vietnam report was published as an IIE briefing paper.


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