Increase in % of VN Undergrads Studying Business/Management Last Year in US

Once again, Vietnamese undergraduates studying in the US in 2016/17 led the pack in the percentage of international students majoring in business/management at 31%.  The reasons for this interest in business no doubt remain unchanged: 1) the notion that you have to study business to do business, which I addressed in this February 2017 article I wrote for Forbes Vietnam; and 2) the fact that not many students and parents are aware of the value of a liberal arts education.

top 15 business
Source:  IIE Open Doors 2017

Here’s the complete list:

  • Business/Management: 31%
  • Undeclared: 16.7%
  • Math/Computer Science: 11%
  • Engineering: 10%
  • Physical/Life Sciences: 7.5%
  • Social Sciences: 5.8%
  • Intensive English: 5.4%
  • Health Professions: 4.4%
  • Fine/Applied Arts: 3.1%
  • Other Fields of Study: 2.8%
  • Education: 1.2%
  • Humanities: 1.2%

So while nearly one-third are studying business/management, the good news is that nearly 70% are studying a wide variety of other subjects.



Viet Nam Enrollment Up 6%, According to SEVIS Biannual Report

actve f m students1000w_q95

For some reason, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), decided to issue an update on international student enrollment as of May 2017.  There are currently 1.18 million international students with F (academic) or M (vocational) status studying at 8,774 schools in the US, according to the latest SEVIS by the Numbers update (PDF), of whom 77% are from Asia. 

Based on data extracted from SEVIS May 5, the international student population increased 2% compared to May 2016, with 76% of students enrolled in higher education programs of study.  Based on past increases, or taking a glass is half-empty look at that increase, it’s very modest at best, and a harbinger of a downward trend at worst. 

[In my opinion, May is not the best time to be analyzing and comparing international enrollment figures in the US because it’s the end of the academic year.  Why not wait until October, after the beginning of the new academic year?]

China and India continue to send the largest number of students to the US with 362,368 students and 206,698 students, respectively.  Saudi Arabia experienced the largest decline at -19% and Nepal the most sizable increase at +18%.

There are some bright spots, however, including one related to Vietnamese enrollment.  Viet Nam was one of a handful of sending countries with a notable increase of 6% from May 2016 to May 2017.  India was in the same range with a 7% increase. 

Fields of Study

There are no surprises here.  Business, including management, marketing and related support services, are the most popular fields of study, followed by engineering, computer science, remedial education and liberal arts.  43% of international students enroll in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs of study. DHS classifies

Regional Trends

by region1000w_q95

This biannual report includes a new section on regional data trends.  Below are some excerpts from the SEVIS update:

Northeast:  The international student population in the Northeast increased 4% when compared to May 2016, marking the highest proportional growth of the four US regions. Rhode Island was the only state in the region to experience a dip in the number of international students compared to the previous year, while New York and Massachusetts added the largest number of international students during that same period, 4,490 students and 2,770 students, respectively. New Jersey saw an increase of 10% in international students pursuing bachelor’s degrees.

South:  In the South, the international student population grew 3% since May 2016. Florida, Georgia and Texas all saw significant increases in the number of international students studying in those states.  While Louisiana, Tennessee and Oklahoma saw decreases in the number of international students studying there.

Arkansas, Kentucky and Maryland all saw major growth in international students taking part in their higher education system. Maryland saw a 10% increase in the number of students earning a bachelor’s degree. However, the southern region saw the largest growth at the graduate degree level. The number of international students pursuing master’s degrees increased 25% in Arkansas and 35% in Kentucky.

Midwest:  The Midwest saw minimal growth of 1%. Illinois added 1,331 students to its international student population, marking the largest increase in the region, while Nebraska experienced the largest proportional growth of 7%. Missouri experienced the largest decrease in international students, both in terms of student numbers and proportional decline, 763 students and 3%, respectively.

West:  In the western part of the US, international student enrollment stayed relatively static in California, other than an 8% increase in the number of students earning bachelor’s degrees. Idaho saw a 14% drop in the total number of international students studying in the state, with a 16% decrease in the number of students earning a bachelor’s degree. Nevada’s international student population grew by 5%, marking the largest proportional growth in the region.

The top 10 host states for Vietnamese students are as follows: 

  1. California
  2. Texas
  3. Washington
  4. Massachusetts
  5. New York
  6. Florida
  7. Pennsylvania
  8. Illinois
  9. Virginia
  10. Georgia

The top three states enroll 46% of all Vietnamese students, while the top 10 enroll nearly 72% of the total.  Consistent with the regional trends reported above, Florida surpassed Pennsylvania and Georgia displaced Minnesota from November 2016.  

Stay tuned for the next, and much more interesting, update on the number of international students in the US, including from Viet Nam! 


BREXIT & US Election: No Major Short-Term Effects on VN Student Interest

hcmoblogo-newThis is the latest in a series of Diversification Market Reports produced by Hotcourses, the UK’s leading course search company with more than 6,000 course providers.  (Hotcourses was recently acquired by IDP.)

Below are an overview, executive summary, and list of the key takeaways, the most important of which is this:  BREXIT and the US election have not had any major short-term effects on Vietnamese students interest in the two countries.  The results of this survey were presented at the NAFSA 2017 annual conference in Los Angeles.

hotcourses vn trump

This report captures an overview of demand from students in Vietnam, and an
examination of the destinations they are headed to, the programs they are studying,
level of study and other trends and insights. The data in this report is informed by the
Hotcourses Insights Tool which tracks searches across the global Hotcourses websites,
to which there were over 32 million visitors in the past 12 months. 

The data for this report is drawn from the time period January 1, 2016 – December 31, 2016.  The data was drawn from a sampling of 1,034,085 Vietnamese students researching 11 prospective destination markets over a 12 month period: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore,
Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States. 

Executive summary

  • Vietnam is a crucial market to engage with for universities looking to diversify
    their recruitment – particularly beyond China and India – gaining increasing
    international attention.
  • Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi are the two Vietnamese cities where the most searches for
    overseas study were performed.
  • Vietnamese students’ top destination countries of interest were the United States
    and Australia, with 33% of Vietnamese researching universities in the United States
    and 27% in Australia.
  • Business and management is the most popular program of interest among
    Vietnamese students for both undergraduate and graduate degree levels.

Key Takeaways

  • BREXIT and the US election have not had any major short-term effects on
    Vietnamese students interest in the two countries.
  • Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi are the two most important cities to travel to on
    international recruitment tours to Vietnam.
  • Business and Management is the top program of interest for both undergraduate
    and graduate level Vietnamese students.
  • Graduate programs in the UK are of high interest to Vietnamese students,
    particularly business and management.
  • USA’s Health and Medicine programs, especially those focused on
    pharmacology and psychology, are of high interest within the Vietnamese
  • Vietnam is a prime diversification market for Canada, as Vietnamese student
    interest there has been growing exponentially over the past year.
  • While interest in Australia as a destination market appears to be on a decline, it
    is still the second most popular destination market for Vietnamese students and
    has potential to rebound in the first half of 2017.

There is one caveat to all of the above:  The results are as of the end of 2016.  A lot of water has flowed under the political bridge in the past seven (7) months in both the US and the UK.  


ITA Report with a Vietnam “Case Study”: Useful but Not 100% Accurate

259709-1 (ITA education report)Global competition for international students is rising quickly, especially among English-speaking countries and countries increasing their English-language course offerings. Although U.S. institutions still host the largest percentage of internationally mobile students, this share is eroding as competition increases. This report assesses global market opportunities for U.S. colleges and universities, providing guidance for U.S. institutions interested in the recruitment of international students.

The International Trade Administration (ITA) of the US Department of Commerce published a report year entitled 2015 Top Markets Report – Education:  A Market Assessment Tool for US Exporters. (PDF)  It begins with an overview of international mobility trends, including information about the top host countries…

intl overview - leading host countries

and the US share of internationally mobile students (2001 vs. 2014) .

us share of intl mobile students

The authors chose to focus on the largest markets with the most potential for growth. While 40 markets were considered, eight (8) were selected for case studies, including Vietnam, “as these markets were large, exhibited significant past growth, and/or had economic and demographic indicators of future growth.”

  • China:  biggest market, high growth
  • India:  second largest market, stable
  • Saudi Arabia:  rapidly growing market
  • S. Korea:  large stable market
  • Germany:  medium-sized market, stable
  • France:  medium-sized market, stable
  • Brazil:  medium-sized market, rapid recent growth
  • Vietnam:  medium-sized market, good growth

Appendix 1 of the report contains a description of the methodology they used to determine which countries to focus on for case studies. Specifically, the authors looked at “four main factors in assessing which markets were most promising for U.S. colleges and universities attempting to recruit foreign students in the coming years.”  The factors and their weightings are as follows:

  • The number of students from a given country currently studying in the United States (0.40)
  • The number of students from a given country studying anywhere outside that country (0.40)
  • Historical growth rates and changes in those rates regarding internationally mobile students studying in the United States (0.15)
  • Share of each country’s students studying in United States, a measure of untapped potential (expressed as a percentage) (0.05)

Mapping SEVIS by the NumbersAmong the countries listed six (6) are in the top ten of all places of origin.  Vietnam ranks 6th, according to the 12/15 SEVIS by the Numbers update (PDF download) and 9th, according to Open Doors 2015 (PDF download), using information from previous academic year.  According to the former, there are 28,883 Vietnamese students studying at all levels in the US.

There is nothing new or surprising about the Vietnam “case study,” just the usual facts and figures about growth trends, current numbers (IIE/Open Doors 2014), popular majors (i.e., business and management, the STEM fields, the social sciences, intensive English), the interest in US boarding schools and some information and predictions about future growth/opportunities.

The report notes that “in the near term, the number of Vietnamese students is likely to increase.”  The percentage increase over the past 10 years was 424%, secondly only to Saudi Arabia.  It mentioned that the growth rate decreased between 2008/09 and 2013/14 to 30% and pointed to two developments that “might further slow increases in Vietnamese student enrollment in the United States.”  Below are the points and my counterpoints.

Point #1: Improvements in domestic higher education as a top priority for the Vietnamese government, meaning that once this happens fewer Vietnamese students will study overseas.

Counterpoint #1:  Yes, it will happen eventually (and should happen!) but not in the short- or medium-term future.

Point #2: Other destinations such as Australia and Singapore that “offer proximity, affordable costs, and possible post-graduate employment.”

Counterpoint #2:  Those countries rank 2nd and 5th, respectively. (They are often second-choice countries for students who are unable to obtain a US student visa.) Other top five countries not mentioned are China and Japan.  Interest in the former is because of cost and simply because it’s China and the latter because of the large number of scholarships.  Both countries are major trading partners of Vietnam and there is significant interest among young people in their cultures.  According to a 2014 HSBC survey, Australia and Singapore – in that order – were the two most expensive overseas study destinations in the world.  The US ranked 3rd.

Not surprisingly, the report mentioned one of ITA’s pet projects, the Vietnam Education and Training Export Center (VETEC), located in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC):  “VETEC offers US institutions and Vietnamese students a broad variety of services, including year-round promotion of US education in Vietnam; advertising campaigns and promotions; on-site student advising and counseling; and facilitation of institutional contacts and exchange.”  The report concludes by asserting that similar methods “will help increase student recruitment in Vietnam over the long term.”   Good advice!  Coincidentally, those are some of the same services that my employer, Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company with offices in Hanoi and HCMC, has offered since its founding nearly seven years ago.

Future Projection a Shot in the Dark

While the report is generally favorable about future prospects for Vietnamese student recruitment, it’s projection of 20,100 students for 2017/18 is way off the mark.  It doesn’t take into account the record number of student visas issued in FY14 (14,822) and the impressive results of the most recent SEVIS by the Numbers quarterly updates.  As mentioned, as of November 2015 there were 28,883 Vietnamese students in the US at all levels, but mostly in higher education.


Vietnam Ranks 6th… in US Immigration

During the US government fiscal year 2015 (ending 30 September 2015), over half a million people emigrated to the US.  Of that number (531,463), 27,391 (5.15%) were from Vietnam, including 13 whose visas were issued under the Vietnam Amerasian category.  Below is the list of top 10 countries based on the number of immigrant visas issued.

  1. Mexico:  82,476
  2. Dominican Republic:  45,065
  3. China:  39,251
  4. Philippines:  36,650
  5. India:  30,381
  6. Vietnam:  27,391
  7. Pakistan:  14,220
  8. Bangladesh:  14,093
  9. Haiti:  13,251
  10. El Salvador:  12,488
Courtesy: Campus,ie

Most of those are family members of Vietnamese-Americans who arrived in the US during several waves of post-war emigration.  Others are Vietnamese who want to hedge their bets, so to speak, and have no intention of living full-time in the US, while some others are Vietnamese who study in the US and then, for whatever reason, often of a personal nature, make the fateful decision to emigrate.

Unlike some in the past who had close ties to the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), who have never returned to their homeland for political reasons, most of the newer immigrants maintain close ties with Vietnam.

Most emigrate in the hopes of a better economic life, which is not always the case, given how static the US economy is right now and how dynamic Vietnam’s is.  I know of one family who were among the last to emigrate under the auspices of the Orderly Departure Program, which ended in 1997.  (Under this program, which began in 1980, 623,509 Vietnamese were resettled abroad, including 450,000 in the US.)  The parents are planning to retire to their home village in Vietnam and one of their children made plans to return because he saw more opportunities in Vietnam and he feels more at home here than in the US.  The main objective of the parent’s decision to emigrate was to give their children a better education than they would have had in Vietnam.

Considering the size of Vietnam’s population, i.e., over 93 million, these numbers are inconsequential and have been decreasing with the passing of each year.

The full PDF report from which the above stats were excerpted can be downloaded here.


USA is Once Again the World’s Leading Host of Vietnamese Students; Ranks 6th Overall

Ranks 6th Among All Sending Countries

As I predicted earlier this year, Vietnam has surpassed Japan in total enrollment in the US, most of it in higher education.  It recorded an astounding 18.9% increase from July 2015, the third highest after India (20.7%) and China (19.4%), according to the latest SEVIS by the Numbers quarterly update.

11-15 Places of Origin Asia

Incredibly, Vietnam now ranks 6th among all sending countries with 28,883 students studying at US institutions, mostly colleges and universities but also boarding and day schools, along with some other programs.  The US has surpassed Australia (PDF), which had 28,524 Vietnamese students at all levels as of October 2015, a 0.4% decrease over the previous year.  As you can see below, Vietnam is nipping at the heels of Canada, which was unimaginable five (5) years ago.

Top 10 Countries of Citizenship 11-15

What are some of the reasons for this continued impressive growth?

  • Robust economic growth, 6.5% through September 2015, which translates into growing ability to pay for one of the world’s most expensive higher education systems;
  • Proactive recruitment on the part of growing numbers of US colleges and universities, which means more choices for Vietnamese students and parents;
  • More institutions with an overall price tag – with or without scholarships – in the 20-30k range or less; and
  • The continued popularity of US higher education as an overseas study destination.

This is in spite of a high visa denial rate over the summer, especially in the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City and growing concern about personal safety, the result of the recent spate of mass shootings.

Extrapolating from the estimate calculated by IIE based on information from Open Doors and the U.S. Department of Commerce, this means that the current contribution to the US economy by Vietnamese students is $919, 461,422. Since most students are self-financing, Vietnamese parents are spending nearly $1 billion on their children’s education in the US.  To put this in perspective Vietnam’s 2014 GDP was $186.2 billion, according to the World Bank.


Open Doors 2015: More Double-Digit Increases for Vietnam!

BT-Open-Doors-2015Yes, dear readers, it’s that time of year again – time for Open Doors 2015!  For the uninitiated – the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange is an annual international academic mobility report published by the Institute of International Education with a grant from the US State Department.

Below is a list of top 10 sending countries in the 2014/15 academic year.  Keep in mind that this information is based on a survey distributed last fall (2014) semester, i.e., it’s already a year old. Vietnam (PDF download) had one of the higher year-over-year percentage increases among the top 25 places of origin at 12.9%.  In reality, there were 24,288 Vietnamese students in the US at all levels, nearly 90% in higher education, as of July 2015, according to the August 2015 SEVIS by the Numbers quarterly update (PDF download).  Vietnam actually ranks 7th, having surpassed Taiwan, and is on the verge of overtaking Japan.

Rank Place of Origin 2013/14 2014/15 % of Total % Change
WORLD TOTAL 886,052 974,926 100.0 10.0
1 China 274,439 304,040 31.2 10.8
2 India 102,673 132,888 13.6 29.4
3 South Korea 68,047 63,710 6.5 -6.4
4 Saudi Arabia 53,919 59,945 6.1 11.2
5 Canada 28,304 27,240 2.8 -3.8
6 Brazil 13,286 23,675 2.4 78.2
7 Taiwan 21,266 20,993 2.2 -1.3
8 Japan 19,334 19,064 2.0 -1.4
9 Vietnam 16,579 18,722 1.9 12.9
10 Mexico 14,779 17,052 1.7 15.4

Fields of Study & Vietnam

2014-15 Places of Origin & Fields of Studyvietnam fields of study

Academic Level & Vietnam

As expected, there is a decrease in the percentage of Vietnamese students choosing business/management as their major, a positive development, in my opinion.

level and place of origin 2015vietnam level and place of origin

There are some notable changes in academic levels:

  • a 100% increase in the number of non-degree students, e.g., ESL, certificate programs
  • a 26% increase in the number of OPT students

Community Colleges & Vietnamese Students

Rank Place of Origin % of Enrollment
1 China 17.7
2 South Korea 8.9
3 Vietnam 8.4

Vietnam remains in 3rd place with 7,698 students enrolled in a community college, most with plans to complete their Bachelor’s degree at a four-year school.  (That’s 8.4% of the total international enrollment at US community colleges last year, which was 91,448.)  That translates into a one-year increase of 15.4%, from 6,509 to 7,698 students.

A note about Brazil’s short-lived ascendancy.  This 11.11.15 ICEF Monitor article details the impact of the current economic crisis in Brazil on overseas study.  Here are the highlights:

  • Brazil is in the grip of an economic crisis that has pressured consumer spending and weakened the Brazilian currency
  • This in turn has made it much more expensive for Brazilians to travel or study abroad
  • The expectation is that the market will decline this year but there are surprising and important areas of demand, particularly in the form of students who are committed to improving their skills for better employment prospects
  • Demand is also shifting to more affordable English-speaking destinations, notably Malta, South Africa, and Ireland