2019: A Year to Remember

Dear Friends, Colleagues, & Followers,

The title of this post has a mostly positive connotation. Yes, these are challenging times in the fields of international education in general and international student recruitment in particular, for some countries more than others because of sociopolitical changes. The good news is that there is still tremendous interest in overseas study at the secondary and postsecondary levels among Vietnamese students and parents.

What’s changing is the diversity of countries represented. It is very much a “buyer’s market” and there are more attractive choices than ever. Many countries have “discovered” Viet Nam and some are well-positioned to be successful, if they develop and implement a good, country-specific strategy. This means that competition is stiffer than ever. Many parents have more disposable income than ever.

Here are some trends that I see, some of which I have discussed in a previous blog post or article.

Shift from the USA to Canada: This is the result of several reasons, including cost, emigration pathway, and a long list of favorables. These trump any negatives in the US, e.g., Donald Trump is a moot issue for most. Gun violence is a reason why some parents have decided to send their children to study in Canada or even transfer from a school in the US.

Vietnamese Enrollments in the US Holding Steady: While not great news, those of us who help Vietnamese students study in the US will take it. Even though we’re still waiting for the SEVIS by the Numbers update (the last one was in March 2019!), the student visas issuances over the summer, i.e., during the peak season, were modestly higher than in 2018.

More Younger Vietnamese Students Studying Abroad: For example, most of the increase from August 2018 to March 2019 for US-bound Vietnamese students was for boarding and day schools? Why? Ability to pay and the fact that many schools offer merit- and need-based packages that are not much higher than what many parents are paying to send their kids to an international school at home. This explains the high attrition rate at many bilingual and international high schools.

Viet Nam is the Country Du Jour for Investors: This includes private education at the pre-school, K-12, and postsecondary levels, as well as ancillary services such as on- and offline English language training. The government has made it easier than ever for investors, both foreign and Vietnamese, e.g., private equity firms, angel investors, venture capitalists and education companies of considerable means, to invest in education-related ventures in Viet Nam. I wrote about this in a November 2018 update entitled Vietnam Hangs Out the Welcome Sign for International Schools for NAFSA’s International Enrollment Management group. (Since this page is password-protected, I’m happy to send you a copy, if you’re interested.) I was quoted in the September 2019 issue of Vietnam Economic Times, which appeared on 8 October 2019: Education investment catching attention.

Expanding Opportunities for Higher Education Study in Viet Nam: With the establishment of more quality universities at home, including international and private domestic ones, there will be a greater incentive to pursue an undergraduate degree in Viet Nam. Some of the new universities include British University Vietnam, Fulbright University Vietnam, and VinUniversity. This is a medium- to long-term trend.

Most Widely Read Essay in 2019: My most widely read essay of the year was a retrospective view of the passing of the legendary Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap, who died six years ago in October at the age of 102 in Hanoi. It appeared in Soha.vn on 4.10.19: Tiến sĩ Mỹ: Trong đời mình, tôi chưa từng thấy tướng Mỹ nào được như Tướng Giáp. (A YouTube version, produced by Tin Nóng 24h, had nearly 55,000 views, as of this writing.) The English version, entitled Reflections on the passing of General Giap and the end of an era, was published by VNExpress International three days earlier.

Graphic created by Soha.vn to promote the article on its Facebook page.

Exciting Developments @ Capstone Vietnam… as we enter our 11th year. Drop me a line at markashwill[AT]capstonevietnam.com, if you’d like to receive my (usually) monthly Update from Viet Nam.

Shalom (שלום), MAA