Over 100,000 Vietnamese Studied Overseas in 2012

Last year around this time, I wrote a post about about the 100,000+ Vietnamese students who studied in 49 countries and territories in 2011, according to the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET).  90% of them were self-financing.    I conservatively estimated the investment in overseas study to be in the $1+ billion range. 

billions of dollarsThis year’s report, released early this month, revealed that the number of Vietnamese studying overseas had increased to 106, 104 in the 2011/12 academic year.  The top host countries included the US, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Singapore and China – not necessarily in that order.  About 35,900, 34%, studied in Asian countries, while nearly 40% were in Australia and the US.   The Ministry of Finance estimates that Vietnamese spend $10,000-$15,000 a year on average for each student, which adds up to between $1-1.6 billion. 

As Nguyen Truong Giang, a senior Ministry of Finance official, mentioned, and as those who know the Vietnamese higher education and overseas study scene can confirm, one of the driving forces behind this phenomenon is quality, or a lack thereof ,at Vietnamese high schools and universities.  This places more pressure on Vietnamese institutions to improve quality.  It also creates opportunities for new ventures, including international standard K-12 schools and foreign degree programs, often in partnership with Vietnamese universities.  This trend is evident, especially in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). 

Follow these links to read the article on which this post is based: 

Billions of dollars outflows to fund Vietnamese students’ studies overseas

Hàng tỷ USD học phí đang chảy đi hàng năm

My Top 15 Personal Favorites

top15-300x212Last year, I wrote a total of 84 posts, an average of 7 per month.  Below are some of my favorite posts starting with one from February and ending with one from last month.  Collectively, they cover a lot of ground – from updates and personal stories to commentaries and analyses.    

If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It! – About nouveau riche behavior in the new Vietnam. 

International Student Mobility Research Report – According to a World Education Services (WES) report from last spring, While China and India are still too big to ignore, there are other emerging countries worth paying attention to, including Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Mexico, and Brazil. Recruitment to these countries should also be cultivated not only for campus diversity purposes, but also as a de-risking strategy.

Vietnamese Online: 35% & Rising! – An update about the high level of Internet penetration in Vietnam. 

Vietnamese Students’ Love Affair with Business/Management –  There is no sending country that comes close to Vietnam in the percentage of it students who choose business/management as a major. 

Top Ten Sending Countries & GDP: Vietnam’s Story – Vietnam ranks 8th among countries sending students to the US but 43rd in GDP.  This post delves into some of the implications of this extraordinary fact. 

To Emigrate or Not to Emigrate, That is The Question (With Apologies to Mr. Shakespeare) – While everyone who applies for an F-1 (student) visa has to pay lip service to the third criterion about returning home upon completion of their studies in the US, everyone knows how easy it is to emigrate, if so desired.  This is one Vietnamese student’s story. 

Secrets of the Capitalist Class (in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam) – A quick-and-dirty analysis of capitalism in cross-cultural comparison. 

“50 percent of Vietnamese teachers regret their career decision”  A sad commentary on the state of teaching in the Vietnam of 2012. 

Lane Community College Joins Capstone’s HCMC International Academic Center – Lane Community College (Eugene, Oregon) is the second US institution of higher education to become a member of Capstone Vietnam’s International Academic Center and the first in HCMC.  (I’m managing director of Capstone VN.) 

Welcome to My Neighborhood (aka Letting in the Fresh Air and the Flies) – An overview and analysis of some of the changes in my neighborhood that reflect broader changes in Vietnamese society. 

Bigger Isn’t Always Better: The Jerry Maguire Approach to US Higher Ed Fairs – The advantages and joys of small US higher education fairs. 

“Corruption in Education Creates Serious Consequences for the Poor” – An interview I did with a well-known Vietnamese education website.  Corruption in education was just one of a number of topics discussed. 

Vietnam Among Top Emerging Markets for International Student Recruitment – WES identified four emerging international student recruitment markets, including Vietnam.  The report, entitled Beyond More of the Same: The Top Four Emerging Markets for International Student Recruitment, “aims to address the information needs of higher education institutions by systematically identifying key emerging markets and offering near-term strategies to successfully nurture them.”

Vietnam Retains 8th Place Ranking Among Sending Countries – A Vietnam-related overview of the annual Open Doors report, issued by the Institute of International Education. 

Internet Penetration, Social Media & Student Recruitment – Yet another update on Internet penetration, including social media (e.g., Facebook!) and some implications for student recruitment. 


MBA 2012: Its Image & Identity

Below is a guest post by Loek Hopstaken (b. 1951), a business consultant, management trainer & MBA professor, working in both The Netherlands & Vietnam. His areas of expertise include leadership, communication and human resource management.

MBAThe image of MBA: an all-round education in management that offers in-depth knowledge and the latest insights in a wide range of subjects. A typical MBA approach is to study business cases. It combines the latest scientific discoveries and business realities from strategy to finance, marketing to human resource management. A typical MBA student has 5 or more years of working, preferably management, experience. An MBA opens the gates to the C-suite, or at least the door to a successful and financially rewarding international career. This image is being promoted by business schools all over the world, from Harvard to Erasmus. Last but not least: the MBA is expensive. Business schools are themselves successful enterprises.

The identity of MBA: due to rapid changes in the international business arena, the financial crisis and a series of business scandals all involving MBA graduates from famous business schools, the evidence that MBA programs don’t live up to their reputation and image is mounting. But there is more. These rapid changes mean that once useful knowledge is now outdated and insights have proven to be wrong. The books were written mostly before 2008 and miss out on careful analyses of the current economic downturn, and on the quick rise of social media and their meaning for business – both the marketing and the PR sides. The typical MBA student has little or no management experience. Globally, the cost of an MBA program ranges from over US$ 55,000 to less than US$ 7,000. To make ends meet, the “cheap” business schools fill up their classes with 30 – 40 or more students, making effective team work and group discussions nearly impossible.

Part of the MBA image is that it’s an all-American education and training program. This is mostly true, as the MBA originated in the USA. The business world of the 21st century, however, has gone global.  So far, most MBA programs are weak in updating and integrating these new developments. Global means more than the USA. However, most MBA books still use American business cases, most, if not all, dating from before 2008. These are “old news”. Current developments require a rethinking of existing models, a rejection of models that have proven to be unworkable, and even soul-searching, where business ethics are concerned. Nowadays, the difference between success and failure in business is no longer a matter of using the right or wrong business model, but of having the right set of soft skills, or lack thereof. The once modern MBA has become a dinosaur: it misses the connection with the modern times. Many professors have little or no business experience.

In a country like Vietnam an MBA degree is seen by many employers as a must-have for positions that really don’t require the MBA. The result: ambitious job seekers desperately want an MBA for their career. Some CEO’s want to have diploma on the wall for the prestige value.  Senior officials need to have a master’s degree by 2015, and the MBA is the easiest degree to get. They take the content for granted: do the assignments, write a thesis, all that is necessary to get the certificate. Study old editions of American books that elsewhere would be part of a BBA program (like Philip Kotler’s Principles of Marketing). American business cases, no Vietnamese, as these are simply unavailable. They gladly pay the US$ 7,000 or US$ 8,000, believing they will soon belong to the elite that has graduated from Harvard or Wharton.  “MBA inflation” has set in, and the students totally depend on the quality and integrity of their schools and teachers to learn something that can be applied in their future business environment.

Vietnam Among Top Emerging Markets for International Student Recruitment

This article, written by Rahul Choudaha, director of research and advisory services at World Education Services (WES) in New York, identified four emerging international student recruitment markets, including Vietnam.  It’s based on a WES research report  (PDF), entitled Beyond More of the Same: The Top Four Emerging Markets for International Student Recruitment,  that “aims to address the information needs of higher education institutions by systematically identifying key emerging markets and offering near-term strategies to successfully nurture them.”

Dr. Choudaha notes that

International student recruitment has become increasingly competitive as institutional budgets continue to shrink. More than ever, higher education institutions are expected to recruit quality students in a short period of time.
Most institutions rely on traditional source countries to achieve this goal, as penetrating an existing market for enrolment growth is a less costly route in terms of effort, expenditure and time.
As a result, students from China, India and South Korea are overrepresented on campuses. On some, Chinese students make up over half of the non-domestic student population. This is the case at the University of Iowa, where Chinese students comprised more than 70% of international undergraduates in 2011.
There is increasing pressure on institutions to attract international students from a broader range of countries, as they look to diversify their student bodies.

The research was based on a two-round Delphi survey – a mixed method forecasting technique based on the anonymity and expertise of participants.

The report  identifies four emerging markets for international student recruitment, including Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Vietnam:

High recruitment potential is attributable to Vietnam’s growing middle-class and strong study abroad interest. Vietnamese students are the third largest body of international students at American community colleges. Institutions of higher education that identify and reach Vietnamese students with the financial means to study in the US should enjoy a good deal of recruiting success in the coming years.

The Value of Education by the Numbers

If you glance at the top ten sending countries and rank them by students and GDP (PPP), Vietnam jumps off the page.  It ranks 8th among sending countries, according to Open Doors 2012 and the latest SEVIS quarterly updates, but 43rd in GDP.  The closest country, Saudi Arabia, 4th among places of origin, ranks 24th.  All of the other countries are in the top 20 in GDP.  This tells you – with a gigantic exclamation point – that Vietnamese parents are spending enormous sums of money on overseas study in proportion to per capita income.  In a phrase, education is important and parents are putting their money where their priorities and values are.   

To read the article and/or report follow these links:

A diverse student body means a stronger university  (University World News, October 2012, Issue No: 246)

WES Research Report

In Celebration of International Education Week (IEW)

Given the focus of this blog, I thought it was only fitting that I devote a few posts to International Education Week (IEW), “an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. This joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education is part of our efforts to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States.” 

To kick off the week was a post entitled Vietnam Retains 8th Place Ranking Among Sending Countries based on the 2012 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, released by the Institute of International Education (IIE). 

There will be another post about Vietnam as one of the top four emerging markets for international student recruitment, based on a recent World Education Services (WES) report and, possibly, one about US students visas in Vietnam (The US Student Visa: It’s Not Rocket Science!).  I will probably close out the week’s celebration with some reflections on three years of blogging about issues near and dear to my heart and mind. 


“Corruption in Education Creates Serious Consequences for the Poor”

This the title is a wide-ranging interview that I did last month with a reporter from Báo Giáo dục Việt Nam (Vietnam Education News).  This education news website ranks 8,829 in the world, 51 in Vietnam and is linked in 2,093 websites (as of 20.10.12).  As you can see from some original English language excerpts below, corruption in education is just one of a number of points that I touched on.  Vietnamese title:  Tham nhũng trong giáo dục gây hậu quả nghiêm trọng với người nghèo.


Dr. Mark Ashwill is Managing Director of Capstone Vietnam, a human resource development company based in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. From 2005-2009, he was country director of the Institute of International Education (IIE) in Vietnam.  In areas related to “Disappointments and Expectations in Education in Vietnam,” Dr. Ashwill shared a lot of valuable experiences about how the Vietnamese education system can integrate with the world’s most advanced education systems.

1.  Dr. Ashwill, who has lived in Vietnam for a long time and knows a lot about education in Vietnam, and is currently working on the development of human resources as well as serving as a bridge to America for many young people, commented on the advantages and disadvantages of education in Vietnam.

Some of the advantages include the cultural value that people place on education, the amount of money and time that parents invest in their children’s education, and the strong work ethic and desire on the part of most young people to fulfill their potential through education and related activities.

Some disadvantages include underpaid and overworked teachers and professors, substandard facilities, including libraries, an outdated university entrance exam and the rapid privatization of higher education that has, in many cases, been high profit but low quality in nature.

2.According to you, what does Vietnam need to do to break out of the current situation? 

Vietnam needs to continue targeting high-priority areas, including paying K-12 teachers and professors a decent wage. In a recent survey conducted by the Vietnam Institute of Educational Sciences (VIES), 526 primary, secondary and high school teachers from 27 schools in five provinces were asked this simple question: Would you still choose to work as a teacher, if you could make the decision again? Sadly but not surprisingly, 40.9% of primary, 59% of secondary and 52.4% of high school teachers said “no.” In order to recruit outstanding teachers to educate and train young people and prepare them for a rapidly changing society and world of work, salaries, benefits, and working conditions need to be attractive and competitive.

Another issue, one to which the media have devoted a lot of ink and megabytes, is corruption in education. As your readers know, the list of examples of corruption in education is a long one. A Transparency International report published several years ago entitled Stealing the Future: Corruption in Education, listed six (6) damaging effects of corruption in education. In my opinion, these three are the most corrosive:

1. If children come to believe that personal effort and merit do not count and that success comes through manipulation, favoritism, and bribery, then the very foundations of society are shaken.

2. Corruption in education affects more people than corruption in others sectors, both in rural and urban areas.

3. Its consequences are particularly harsh for the poor who, without access to education or with no alternative but low-quality education, have little chance to escape a life of poverty.

Without a workable system of accountability (i.e,. checks and balances), this trend is likely to continue indefinitely. Vietnam’s growth will be stunted if this corruption is not addressed on a systematic basis.

3. According to you, what are the conditions for successful education reform in Vietnam?

Some problems can be solved with additional money (e.g., teacher salaries, infrastructure improvement, etc.), while others can be addressed with policy changes and effective implementation. Given how much value Vietnamese place on education and the fact that these reforms have to be carried out by the government, it becomes a question of political will, commitment and follow-through. 

4.In the 2010/11 academic year, 14,888 students from Vietnam were studying in the United States (up 14% from the previous year). Vietnam is the eighth leading place of origin for students going to the United States.  Do you know why US education system is so attractive to Vietnamese students? 

When you look at the top ten countries sending their young people to study in the U.S., Vietnam really stands out. It ranks 8th in the number of students it has studying at American high schools, colleges and universities but 43rd in GDP. (The closest country is Saudi Arabia at 24th.) What this means is that Vietnamese are investing extraordinary sums of money in overseas education in proportion to GDP. Last year, there were over 100,000 Vietnamese studying abroad, according to the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET), 90% of whom were self-financing.

Why the US? Because of the well-deserved reputation of its higher education system for quality, choice, flexibility and diversity. It really is unique in the numbers of institutions from which students have to choose, the options are their disposal (e.g., 60% of all Vietnamese in the U.S. begin their studies at a community college before transferring to a four-year school to complete their bachelor’s degree). Vietnamese and other international students can even join high school completion programs that enable them to earn a high school diploma and associate’s degree (the first two years of undergraduate education) at community colleges, mostly in Washington state.

While US higher education is very expensive, there are ways to lower the cost, including attending public and private institutions that offer scholarships and financial aid, and attending a community college for the first two years.

5. What should Vietnamese education do to intergate with other educational systems?  

I think Vietnam is doing exactly what it should be doing:

  • Actively learning about other education systems in the tradition of comparative education and seeing what it can adapt and use at home and what is not relevant and applicable. A point I’ve made repeatedly over the years in my discussions with Vietnamese, Americans and others is that foreign countries are negative and positive role models, sources of inspiration, as well as cautionary tales.
  • Focusing on the all-important issue of learner protection to make sure that only accredited foreign educational institutions are permitted to partner with Vietnamese universities and operate in Vietnam. (Unfortunately, most of the unaccredited institutions of higher education that have entered the market here are based in the U.S.)
  • Reaching out to officially accredited foreign educational partners to develop mutually beneficial relationships that involve teaching, research, university-industry cooperation and service.

Emerging internationalization opportunities in Southeast Asia

Below is an excellent post by my colleague, Rahul Choudaha aka Dr. Education, which I’ve taken the liberty of reposting in its entirety.  Both images are courtesy of Boston Consulting Group.  (The italics and bold are mine.)  Note:  The 2010 “per capita income” for Vietnam is based on GNP not GDP. 

Posted: 13 Apr 2012 08:14 AM PDT

Growth of Southeast Asian economies present significant opportunities of engagement for international recruitment, collaborations and study abroad programs.
A recent report by Boston Consulting Group notes that six Southeast Asian countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) will see nearly 100 million people entering the consumer class (annual income more than $5,000) by 2015 with consumer spending expanding by 12 percent annually.  These six nations have enjoyed annual growth rates of 6 to 9 percent, although, on purchasing-power parity basis, per capita GDP in 2010 ranged from $3,150 in Vietnam to $45,170 in Singapore.  This expanding consumer class will demand quality higher education and aspire for global experiences.
The establishment of ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 aims to transform the region into a common market with free flows of goods, services, investment and workers.  Despite its several challenges, ASEAN is expected to see greater mobility of qualified services professionals in the region.  The mutual recognition arrangements (MRAs) have been signed for seven professions–medical, dental, nursing, accountancy, engineering, architectural and surveying.  While AEC would keep talent mobility within the region, it presents significant opportunity for foreign institutions to offer collaborative programs in these professions.