Vietnamese Student Visa Applications to Australia Drop by 31%

A Guest Post By Justin Birch

Australia has enjoyed its status as the number one destination for Vietnamese university students but it shouldn’t get too comfortable.  A recent report released by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship reveals that offshore applications from Vietnamese students dropped by 31%.  This decrease is not the largest, however, with India’s applications having dropped by a staggering 62.9%, but it is second only to China as a cause for concern.  Despite the enormous difference in population size, India accounts for only 1% more of the total number of student visa applicants than Vietnam.  While the market for Indian students in Australia has been generally soft, Vietnam has been a solid and reliable partner.  The recent drop reflects a string of negative developments that have tarnished Australia’s luster among Vietnamese students.

The highly-publicized violence against racial and ethnic minorities and students in recent years has caused significant damage to Australia’s public image and its reputation as a welcoming place for foreign students. While the government has claimed that many of the acts of violence were random, the severe beating of Vu Ngoc Minh, a 19-year-old student attending Deakin University, still remains fresh in the minds of many.  Among the many are Vietnamese parents, who choose where they would like to send their children to college.

The greatest factor have probably been the changes in Australian visa application criteria.  They are not only more restrictive and demanding, they have also been confusing for many and have discouraged applications.  If Australia were the only option for Vietnamese students, these recent events may not have had such a negative impact.  However, Canada offers excellent and affordable universities, and benefits from a solid reputation for its multiculturalism and treatment of international visitors and immigrants.  The US is also a popular destination but it has a much lower approval rate for student visa applications and higher costs. 

Australia’s close proximity, affordability, and familiarity for Vietnamese students will continue to give it key advantages in competing for their tuition dollars.  At the same time, those students will also have access to a growing number of alternatives that could continue to undermine Australia’s position and eventually cause it to lose its dominance altogether unless government policies change to once again make Australia a more attractive destination.

Bio:  Justin Birch wanted to be a high school teacher, and then a college professor, before encountering the difficulties of graduate school and professional academia. Now, as a writer and editor, he works to promote the quality and availability of undergraduate education in America.  Justin is a writer for Online Schools and can be reached at

SEVIS By The Numbers: September 2010 Snapshot

This quarterly report (PDF) is a statistical breakdown of the system’s performance and trends in foreign student representation in U.S. academic and exchange programs. 

As of 30 September 2010, SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) contained records for 1,164,691 active nonimmigrant students, exchange visitors, and their dependents.  The total number of records for all F-1, M-1, and J-1 visa holders is now 7.8 million.

The U.S. is now the world’s leading host of Vietnamese students with 17,563, followed by Australia with 16,300, according to a July 2010 Austrade update.  A reminder:  In contrast to the annual Open Doors 2010 report on international student mobility, which will be released on 15 November 2010, the SEVIS numbers are up-to-date and include international students at all levels of the education system.  The Open Doors stats reflect data snapshots from the previous fall semester and are for those enrolled in regionally accredited institutions of higher education. 

Some highlights from the September 2010 quarterly snapshot:

  • Vietnam ranks 8th with more students in the US than Mexico (9th) or  Nepal (10th)
  • China has the highest number of active students (158,501, up from 118,506)
  • Business continues to be the leading major for international students  (173, 014, up from 151,433)
  • 69% of active students are enrolled in bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral programs
  • California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, Florida and Pennsylvania host 55% of all active students
  • Of the top five F-1 and M-1 approved schools three are community colleges (Houston Community College System with 3,640 active students, Santa Monica College with 3,425, and Northern Virginia Community College with 2,064)


If you look at the breakdown among the top ten countries, you’ll see that there are three discernible “tiers.”  The second ranges from 28,700 (Saudi Arabia) to 32,687 (Canada) students.  Vietnam is poised to ascend into the 2nd tier in the next few years, assuming the current rate of sending.

A notable and noticeable fact, which I intend to explore in a future post, is that two of the top ten countries, Vietnam and Nepal, are low-income countries with a GDP of 92.6 (2009) and 12.69 (2008) billion dollars, respectively. 

Vietnamese Students in Australia: A Reality Check

Last year, there were more than 20,000 Vietnamese students in all sectors in Australia,  including higher education, vocational education and training (VET), English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) and other courses (non-credit courses, enabling courses, eyc.).  5,400 were in VET and 5,300 in the higher education sector as of February 2010, according to the Australian Embassy in Vietnam.     

The total number of international students enrolled in Australian postsecondary was 389,461, as of February 2010.  That’s pretty impressive for a country with a population of 22 million, wouldn’t you agree?  Compare that with the U.S., a country of 308 million and host to 1,054,049 nonimmigrant students, exchange visitors, and their dependents, as of March 2010.  This means that Australia, whose population is 7% that of the U.S., has 37% of international students between the two.  

So why has Australia been so successful in competing with the U.S.?    On the positive side:  marketing and promotion, the IDP model, constructive engagement with selected education agents, cost, high visa issuance rate, scholarships, ease of emigration, etc.   On the negative side:  the tendency of the U.S. to live in the past and rest on its laurels.  Only recently – in discussions about  international student “market share” – has the U.S. begun to take its main friendly competitor seriously.   

While the U.S. is the first choice destination and is rated the highest for overall favorable impression compared to the U.K., Australia, Singapore and France, as survey and anecdotal evidence reveal, Australia is the most popular second choice.  So guess where those young Vietnamese whose U.S. visa applications are rejected (30-40%) end up going?