Study in the USA: A Service Sector Export That No Longer Sells Itself

This matter-of-fact assertion does not (and should not) come as a surprise to US colleagues who recruit internationally.  Here’s a recent story that inspired this post, so to speak, plus a heartfelt appeal. 

study in the usa2
Photo courtesy of EducationUSA

I noticed that a number of students had applied to, been admitted by, and received visas to attend a particular school in the US.  This interest was the result of a couple of public events and, of course, what the school has to offer, including solid academics and attractive scholarships for qualified and deserving students. 

Amazingly, there would have been one more student but she withdrew her application because of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on 14 February 2018 in Parkland, Florida.  Her parents decided not to send her to study in the US.  (Maybe the USA’s loss is Canada’s gain, in this case?)  So, yes, safety, as an essential element of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, is a primary concern among parents, as it is for all of us.  The writing is on the recruitment wall and those of us who help international students study in the US ignore it at our collective peril.

While the number of young Vietnamese studying in the US is still healthy, these cases give one pause. You might say that this one student is insignificant because there were 31,613 Vietnamese students in the US, as of March 2018, but there are signs that others are following suit.  For example, there are about 15,000 Vietnamese students in Canada, nearly half as many as there are in the US, a country with nine times the population and thousands more educational institutions. 

Remarkably, Vietnamese students had the highest percentage increase in 2017 at 89%, making Viet Nam the fastest growing market in the country.  Canada is now a top five host country for Vietnamese students, after Japan, the USA, and Australia, followed by China. 

While US education, both secondary and postsecondary, is still a brand, it no longer sells itself.  Current news, e.g., the mass shooting du jour, a relatively high student visa denial rate, the latest policy announcement to require social media information from all visa applicants for the past five (5) years, the latest missile strike, and a roiling cauldron of perceptions (and misperceptions) can have a decisive impact on where a young person studies.

Do You Have Any I HEART Vietnamese Students Stories? 

I’ve heard stories from many colleagues about how much they value and appreciate Vietnamese students, not only for the financial contributions they make to their host institution and the communities in which they are located, but their academic performance, their integration into the campus community, their leadership qualities, and their positive attitude.

I would like ask those of you who have worked with Vietnamese students and have such a story share it with me in a 750-word essay, including photos and quotes, if possible.  I will take some of these essays and incorporate material into an article about Vietnamese students.  I would also like to translate some into Vietnamese and share them widely. By doing this, you will be helping to promote study in the USA in Viet Nam and, indirectly, promoting your institution.  Now more than ever is the time to show them (more) love.

Please contact me at markashwill[AT], if you’re interested in contributing an essay.

Peace, MAA


Viet Nam Ranks 5th in International Enrollment in 3 Countries

…including Australia, Canada, and the USA!  Those countries also happen to be the world’s leading hosts of international students, albeit in this order:  1)  USA; 2) Australia; and 3) Canada, followed by the UK and Germany.  

intl students australia 3-18

Of the estimated 200,000 Vietnamese students studying overseas, 23,000 are in Australia (PDF download), about 15,000 are in Canada, and 31,613 are in the US.   Japan is the world’s leading host of Vietnamese students with 61,671 in 2017.  This means 131,284, or two-thirds, of all Vietnamese studying overseas are in the top four (4) host countries. 

Peace, MAA



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.  


SJR Excellence Scholarship Recipient Meets Canadian Ambassador

Pham Quynh Anh & Ambassador Chatsis at the Canadian Embassy in Hanoi.

On a recent sunny afternoon in Hanoi, Pham Quynh Anh, who was awarded the SJR Excellence Scholarship, the most generous scholarship ever awarded to a Vietnamese student, had the opportunity to meet with Deborah Chatsis, the Canadian Ambassador to Vietnam.  It was a chance for Ambassador Chatsis to congratulate Quynh Anh on this extraordinary achievement and to wish her well as she embarks upon a life-changing adventure.  At the end of the summer, she will travel across 12 time zones to begin her studies and life at  St. John’s-Ravenscourt School in Winnipeg (Manitoba), one of Canada’s leading independent schools. 

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts and in this recent press release, the SJR Excellence Scholarship, funded by a SJR alumnus who has been successful doing business in Vietnam, enables Quynh Anh to complete the 12th grade at SJR and attend any university in the world, all expenses paid. 

I’m grateful to Ambassador Chatsis for taking time out of her busy schedule to meet with us and chat with Quynh Anh. 


Hai Duong Student Awarded The SJR Excellence Scholarship

This is a press release about the most generous scholarship ever offered to a Vietnamese student.  Follow this link to read the Vietnamese version (Học bổng Tài năng SJR đã tìm ra người thắng cuộc). 


Hai Duong Student Awarded The SJR Excellence Scholarship

Hanoi — Capstone Vietnam is pleased to announce that St. John’s-Ravenscourt School (SJR), one of Canada’s leading independent schools, has awarded the The SJR Excellence Scholarship to Pham Quynh Anh, a 12-grade student at the Nguyen Trai Specialized Senior High School in Hai Duong (northern Vietnam). 

“I feel very lucky to have been awarded such a great scholarship to study at a wonderful school like SJR, a school that has long been recognized for excellence in education and a strong foundation for many students to become successful people in life. On this occasion, I want to express my gratitude to Capstone Vietnam, teachers at SJR and especially the school alumnus who sponsors this scholarship,” said Quynh Anh.

Quynh Anh was selected from among a large number of applicants.  The rigorous screening process, which included English testing and a group discussion with other semifinalists at the Capstone Vietnam office in Hanoi, among other activities, concluded with a Skype interview with the SJR scholarship committee. 

Semifinalists in Hanoi and Dr. Ashwill at Capstone Vietnam’s office


“We are thrilled to offer this life changing scholarship to a most deserving candidate,” said Lisa Kachulak-Babey, Director of Admissions & Communications.  “Among a group of outstanding applicants, Anh set herself apart with her enthusiasm and preparation. Anh is an extraordinary student and we are confident she will be an excellent addition to our school,” she added. 

About the Scholarship

“The SJR Excellence Scholarship is the most extraordinary scholarship opportunity ever offered to a Vietnamese student,” noted Dr. Mark A. Ashwill, Managing Director of Capstone Vietnam.  The scholarship, which is based on academic excellence, community involvement and demonstrated financial need, covers up to two (2) years of study at St. John’s-Ravenscourt School and four (4) years of undergraduate study at any university in the world.  The donor is an alumnus of SJR who has been successful doing business in Vietnam.  He wishes to give back and award this generous long-term scholarship to a qualified and deserving Vietnamese student.

About St. John’s-Ravenscourt School

Founded in 1820 and locate located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, St. John’s-Ravenscourt School is a university-preparatory school for boys and girls. It offers a day program for students in Kindergarten–Grade 12 and boarding for students in Grades 8–12. As one of Canada’s leading independent schools, SJR has a consistent record of achievement. To date, SJR’s debating and public speaking program has an unprecedented record of 14 out of 25 World Championships. The school has produced 18 Rhodes scholars and numerous athletes who have competed at national and international levels, including the Olympics. SJR’s graduates receive top scholarships and go on to study in prestigious universities around the world.

International Boarding School Fair in Hanoi

Taping of “Study Abroad Window” TV Show About Boarding Schools

Interest in and the concomitant ability to pay for a boarding school education has been on the rise in recent years in Vietnam.  For parents who can afford it (total annual cost can be as high as $50,000) boarding schools represent a great opportunity for their children to obtain a quality education that will prepare them for admission to some of the top colleges and universities in the US and for life.

This November, for the first time ever, Linden Boarding Schools – in association with Capstone Vietnam, a Hanoi-based human resource development company – is organizing an international boarding school fair in Hanoi. (Disclosure:  I’m managing director of Capstone Vietnam.) 

Fair date: 17 November
Fair time: 4:00 – 8:00 pm
Location: The Melia Hotel, 3rd Floor Ballroom

The fair gives a select group of parents and their children an opportunity to meet, in person, admissions representatives who are thoroughly familiar with the details of their schools’ curriculum, facilities, arts and athletic programs, as well as the history and overall feel of the campus and its students.

Boarding school representatives from the following states and provinces will be at the fair:  California, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, and Virginia, as well as British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, Canada.

The Hanoi fair is part of a 13-19 November Asia Tour that includes Kazakhstan (Astana), Korea (Seoul), and the Philippines (Manila), in addition to Vietnam.  The trip to Hanoi will include a networking event with prescreened agents. 

A word about the above photo.  This show was taped in June and will be broadcast in early November.  From left to right:  Ha Quyen, the host of HTV’s  popular Study Abroad Window (Cửa Sổ Du Học) program, Dinh Hien Khanh (Jessie), a sophomore at St. Andrew’s School (Delaware, USA),  John Williamson, Owner and Executive Director of Linden Boarding Schools, and Nguyen Do Ha Giang (Jill), an alumna of Verde Valley School (Arizona, USA) and a freshman at Hendrix College in Arkansas.