Recruitment Beyond China: Lower-Middle-Income Countries Show Promise

Recruitment strategies that focus on lower-middle-income countries, many of which are home to an upwardly mobile, aspiring middle class, are particularly important for institutions that are outside the top-tier. Research by WES shows that outbound students from these countries, especially those at key inflection points in their academic careers, tend to prioritize career opportunities over reputation when choosing where to study.

WES logoIn this excellent and timely WES (World Education Services) report on mobility trends Viet Nam is mentioned as one of four (4) lower-middle-income countries that are a “rising force in international enrollments.”

Among the highlights is this section entitled New Students; New Motivations.

Given that lower-middle-income countries have begun to emerge as viable sources of qualified students institutions need to understand student motivations and to design their recruitment strategies accordingly.

WES conducted a survey last year in an effort to better understand how international students choose institutions.  It revealed some key characteristics that distinguish students from lower-middle-income countries from those in their wealthier counterparts.

  • They do not view college rankings as a primary deciding factor in deciding where to apply. 
  • They view career prospects after graduation as a higher priority than any other country income group.
  • They are price sensitive, but weigh long-term earning potential (the ROI of their investment in education) heavily. 
  • They place a high value on career services.

Another one of the findings was that students from lower-middle-income countries tend to apply to a higher number of institutions than their counterparts from wealthier nations.  As the report noted, This lack of commitment increases competition for enrollments, but it also creates opportunities for institutions that are able to differentiate themselves.

A number of the results reflect the current situation in Viet Nam, which means that this report is recommended reading for colleagues whose institutions have targeted Viet Nam as a priority country.

Follow this link to read the report in its entirety.



Tips for Entrepreneurs

Thuan Pham, CTO at Uber Technologies, Inc. Photo credit:  TheInformation

Memo to entrepreneurs:  read this, take it to heart, live it.  Good advice from Thuan Pham, Chief Technology Officer of Uber, excerpted from a recent Tech in Asia article about him.

It’s about the work, innovation, quality, impact, taking risks, learning from failure and leaving a legacy.  If all of the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, the money comes later.  It’s not about showin’ you the money but about showing the world what you can do offer and contribute.

This advice was offered by Mr. Thuan during a recent visit to India as part of an UberExchange program:

  1. Money will come when you do something that impacts a lot of people. If you chase only money, you will be really unhappy.
  2. Building something that can impact and change people’s lives across the world will always keep you motivated.
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously and you will not hesitate to take bold risks in life. Have fun along the way.
  4. Give back. Developing people will really make you satisfied at the end of it. Developing young ones in your teams who can lead and impact hundreds of lives – even after you’re gone – will leave you satisfied.

It’s all about finding your ikigai!


Good Morning Future Wealth, Vietnam

For reformers, the country’s economic and political rise could be just about to start.

Image Credit: Hanoi via

Good piece by Anthony Fensom about a joint report, New Report Lays Out Path for Vietnam to Reach Upper-Middle-Income Status in 20 Years, released on 23 February 2016 by the Vietnamese government and the World Bank, that suggests Vietnam could achieve upper-middle income status by 2035 with a PCI of more than $7,000.  (Last year’s nominal GDP was about $2,200.) Included is a projection of what the economic picture would look like with and without the recommended reforms.


You can read a summary of the report and download it on this page.

June 2016 Vietnam Strategic Recruitment Retreat

I’m pleased to announce that I will lead a Strategic Recruitment Retreat (SRR) in Phan Thiết, Vietnam from 17-19 June for colleagues whose institutions have targeted Vietnam as a high recruitment priority.  The purpose of the retreat is to give them the tools they need in terms of knowledge, insights and strategy in order to increase their chances of success in recruiting Vietnamese students in what has become a highly competitive market in recent years.  Colleagues can either come after the ICEF Thailand-Vietnam Agent Roadshow or attend on a stand-alone basis.  I’m delighted to welcome Study in the USA as an event sponsor. 

Follow this link for detailed information and online registration.


Vietnamese student numbers growing in the US

Below is an excerpt from my recent University World News (UWN) article.  Follow this link to read the article in its entirety.


Top 10 Countries of Citizenship 11-15

There are currently 1.2 million international students studying in the United States, nearly 75% of whom are enrolled in bachelor, masters or doctoral programmes. California, New York and Texas enrol 36% of all students. Some 919,484 of them, or 77% of the total, are from Asia. Compared to July 2015, the total number of active international students studying in the US increased 13.3%.

These figures are from the latest SEVIS by the Numbers quarterly update published in December. Unlike the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors statistics, which are based on data collected the previous year and include higher education enrolment only, SEVIS data are real-time and encompass all levels of the educational system.

Spotlight on Vietnam

One of the shining highlights of the SEVIS report is the breakneck growth in Vietnamese enrolments at all levels of the US educational system, especially at its colleges and universities.

Vietnam has surpassed Japan in total enrolment. It recorded an astounding 18.9% increase from July to November 2015, the third highest after India (20.7%) and China (19.4%).

Incredibly, Vietnam now ranks sixth among all sending countries with 28,883 students studying at US institutions, mostly colleges and universities but also boarding and day schools.

Vietnam is also nipping at the heels of Canada, something that was unimaginable seven years ago when it was not even in the top 10. It climbed to eighth place in 2009 with 15,994 students and stayed there until the end of 2015.

The US has surpassed Australia in terms of numbers of Vietnamese students as there were 28,524 Vietnamese students studying in Australia at all levels as of October 2015, a 0.4% decrease over the previous year.

Interestingly, 54.7% of all Vietnamese students in the US are female and 45.3% male. That’s a difference of nearly 2,700 students.

In terms of degree-related programmes, the breakdown is as follows:

  • Language Training: 12.9% (3,732)
  • Associate: 27.9% (8,050)
  • Bachelor: 31.1% (8,976)
  • Masters: 8.1% (2,330)
  • Doctorate: 4% (1,159)

“Young, educated, unemployed: Vietnamese graduates struggle to find jobs”

Students attend a job fair in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach
Students attend a job fair in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach (Thanh Nien News)

“How can I have experience just after graduating from university? No firm wants to recruit an employee with little experience like me,” Nguyen Thuy Hang, 22, said while looking for accounting jobs on a jobs site.

The Hanoi National Economics University graduate has sent out CVs to dozens of local and foreign-owned companies, but only three of them have called her for interviews. Unfortunately, she said, she was less experienced than other applicants and did not make much of an impression.

Hang is like many recent university graduates.  As in other countries, they need much more than a university degree to find a suitable job.  They are competing with fellow graduates who took advantage of internship opportunities and found ways – outside of the classroom – to learn and hone various soft skills, improve their English proficiency and, in some cases, to learn valuable IT skills.  The problem is that most universities do not offer services that facilitate these connections and opportunities, e.g., career planning and placement offices, so the responsibility falls squarely on their young shoulders.

Then there is the quality of the education being provided, which at most institutions is heavy on textbook knowledge and theory and short on practical experience and soft skills, including communication skills, teamwork and collaboration, adaptability, problem solving, critical thinking and conflict resolution.  (I can confirm this as both an interested observer and an employer.)  Nguyen Thi Van Anh, managing director of jobs firm Navigos Search, said in the article on which this post is based that the shortage of necessary skills is much more serious in Vietnam than in other ASEAN countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.

This sentiment is reflected in a statement by Hoang Ngoc Vinh, director of the Professional Education Department at the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET), who noted that the unemployment problem might come from the quality of university education, rather than the surplus of university graduates.  Around 25-30% of the labor force in developed countries are university graduates; in Vietnam, it’s only 7%. “The quality of university graduates may have not met the demands of the labor market,” he said, as cited by Tuoi Tre.

Another issue is the lack of desire on the part of some recent graduates to gain on-the-job experience, to pay their dues, so to speak, in order to be better prepared for the kind of white-collar job they are looking for.  As Phan Truong Son, manager of a chain of restaurants, cafes and shops in Hanoi, put it, his firm announced vacancies for 20 salespeople and waiters, but got only three applications.

Finally, one of the most compelling issues is a structural one. Duong Duc Lan, director of the labor ministry’s vocational training department, said the country possibly has more graduates than it needs. Vietnam has around one million high school graduates every year and only around 3% of them go to vocational schools, while most want a college degree.  Why?  Because of prestige and the belief that a university degree will automatically result in a white-collar job with a higher salary and more respect.  Meanwhile, Vietnam desperately needs more qualified workers.  The problem is twofold:  attracting more students to certain vocational programs and improving the quality of those programs.

To put all of the above in perspective the national unemployment rate in Vietnam is 2.35%, according to the Ministry of Labor, a fifth of which is university graduates.  Thus, the overall issue is underemployment for many rather than unemployment for the country as a whole and a disconnect between student/parent beliefs and aspirations, the educational system and the labor market.



Louis Preschool & Kindergarten: “My Passion – Your Great Future”

louis kindergarten

Introducing one of Hanoi’s newest preschools and kindergartens, named after the famous French kings.  (There’s also a restaurant in Hanoi named “Louis,” which makes me smile.  See below.)  One glance at the website and you’ll see that this is not your average Vietnamese school.  Even if you don’t read Vietnamese, just look at the pictures.

louis restaurant
Pardon the quality. This pic was taken in a “drive-by photoshooting.”

Since location is everything in the world of real estate, Louis’ location is ideal in a high-income part of the city, nestled among high-rise condos and private homes, whose residents can afford the cost of sending their child to this luxury preschool/kindergarten.  The monthly fee is about $245, not including meals and other items.  Last year, Vietnam’s per capita income was about $2,200.