Is the Bloom Off the Canadian Rose for Vietnamese Students?

I wrote updates for University World News in 2018 (Vietnamese students look at the US and head north – editor’s title) and 2019 (The shift of Vietnamese students to Canada marches on) but I what I have to say this year will fit into a short blog post.

As of 31 December 2019, there were 642,480 international students in Canada, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), a robust 13% increase over the previous year.  Viet Nam retained its ranking as the fifth leading sending country with 21,595 students – after India (219,855), China (141,400), Korea (24,180), and France (24,045). 

While the number of young Vietnamese studying at Canadian higher education institutions and secondary schools increased by 6.22% over 2018, an increase worthy of celebration by Canada and its host institutions, it pales in comparison to those of recent years and could very well portend a downward trend, depending upon how the situation plays out in 2020. 

To understand how a single-digit increase could be viewed as a harbinger of at least a medium-term enrollment decline, it’s useful to look at the dramatic double-digit increases from 2015 to 2018, which ranged from 46% to 87%.  Not surprisingly, the refusal rate was also quite low, e.g., 38% in 2013, 24% in 2017, and 22% in 2018. Any that time, anywhere from six to eight applicants received a study permit.

Photo by MAA

One explanation for the sudden decline is the fact that the study permit refusal rate for Viet Nam was 55% from 1 January to 31 May 2019, a sharp increase over previous years.  The usual reasons apply, including insufficient funds to cover tuition and living costs while in Canada, an academic plan that doesn’t make sense, and/or evidence of fraud in the application.  The fact is that many Vietnamese students in Canada are simply jumping through an academic hoop in order to be able to work and emigrate. Canada has plenty of “quantity” now and is wise to focus on quality, especially since many of these international students will become permanent residents and citizens.

I have no predictions for 2020, only to say that the COVID-19 pandemic will certainly have an impact on overseas study trends in many countries. Here are among the best English language resources related to the coronavirus in Canada and Viet Nam. Stay tuned!

Shalom (שלום), MAA