In Country Representatives: A Tale of Two Models

intl student recruitmentA growing number of educational institutions are turning to in country, including regional, representatives to assist them with international student recruitment.  While this option obviously costs more than other recruitment tools and techniques because it includes the cost of a local salary, benefits (?), and other expenses, including travel and marketing, it can potentially be more productive.  It all depends on your representative, her/his skill, network, and a variety of market conditions. 

There are basically two models from which to choose:

An Independent Consultant:  You hire someone, ideally, a host country national who speaks the language, perhaps has studied overseas, and has a good education-related network.  Your rep essentially works at home, which saves your institution money.  You pay her/him directly via international wire transfer.  Sounds simple, right?  

An Outsourced Consultant:  A host country national who is employed by a legally licensed company but who represents your institution exclusively.  The Viet Nam-based employer assumes legal responsibility for your representative and handles payroll and other administrative issues, in addition to providing “supervision lite”, and offering strategic advice.

The main difference between the two models is that the first is technically illegal while the second is legal.  Regarding the former:  is anyone ever going to call you on it?  Probably not but they could – either within Viet Nam or from abroad.    

The problem is that foreign entities are not permitted to operate in Viet Nam without an official (read legal) presence, i.e., a license.  Consider this food for thought for those who currently employ an independent consultant from afar, or are considering doing so.

Peace, MAA

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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]capstonevietnam.com, 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

 

 

The Vietnamese Student Pivot to the Great White North

This was the original title of my latest University World News article.  Why?  Because overseas study is not a zero-sum game or a black & white issue but rather a complex and technicolor phenomenon with many different forces at work, including push and pull factors. 

While it’s true that growing numbers of Vietnamese student are choosing Canada as an overseas study destination for the reasons I mention in the article, the USA remains a top destination, along with Australia and the UK, among the English-speaking countries.  The top six (6) leading host countries for Vietnamese students are Japan, the USA, Australia, Canada, China, and the UK.

Click on the screenshot below or this link to read the article

Peace, MAA

vn students look at us and head north

The Art & Science of Creating Good Videos

youtube

Vietnamese get most of their information from online sources, including social media, primarily Facebook.  They also watch a lot of video, 2 hours, 43 minutes a day, to be precise, according to the results of the annual We Are Social and Hootsuite update.  As a result, YouTube ranks 4th among all websites in Viet Nam, according to SimilarWeb.  It is for this reason that videos should be an integral part of any digital marketing campaign. 

I see a lot of online videos intended to promote various educational institutions but not very many quality ones that young people, i.e., potential international students, would actually watch.  In all honesty, most fall into the bad and ugly categories.  Here are two examples.  It would be best to illustrate my points by showing you real videos but that’s not possible, for obvious reasons, the most important of which I would not want to embarrass the offending parties.

Low quality content:  A lot of videos I see are of the talking head variety.  Either students are sitting or standing in one location talking about their school and related experiences, or someone is interviewing them using a talk show format. 

In one video, the students being interviewed looked like prisoners, sitting with hands folder, and dutifully answering question after question.  In another, a student was obviously reading off of a script and looking into the camera with the occasional nervous smile.  Not convincing, invariably boring and, sometimes, painful, to watch. 

Vietnamese students will click on the link, watch for a second or two, and then quickly move elsewhere in search of more inspirational, educational, and/or meaningful content. 

Poor sound quality:  Content aside, many videos are not professional or even semi-professional.  Either staff or students are using substandard equipment and do not have experience making videos for the demographic in question.  It’s like with photography.  Everyone with a smartphone is a “photographer” but very few know how to take good photos worth looking at. 

nas dailyNas Daily is an example from Facebook that I often share with colleagues.  His daily one-minute videos are crisp, fast-paced, and a pleasure to watch and listen to with commentary, interviews, and background music.   He has over 5.8 million followers and over a billion views, which means he must be doing something right.  The point is his videos are worth watching. 

Peace, MAA

Q: How to Choose an Education Agent? A: Use Your Best Judgement

education-agents
Image courtesy of ETN Focus Workshops

And Don’t Forget the Tried-and-True Carrot & Stick Approach

Colleagues sometimes ask me to recommend education agents in Viet Nam. While I’d like to be able to help them in this regard, I can’t.  The simple reason is that this is such a problematic (read shady) and unregulated sector.  There is no one (or one company) that I can honestly vouch for.

If they ask me about a particular company, all that I can say it that I haven’t heard or read anything bad about that company, if that is indeed the case.  Some are well-established and have been around for a long time.  If I know that a specific company has been engaged in unethical or even illegal activity, I can share that information. (I rely on documented evidence not hearsay or gossip.)

My advice to colleagues is simple and straightforward.  Apply rigorous screening criteria and use your own best judgement, including intuition, a valuable yet underestimated quality.  Do prospective agents treat students and parents as clients and not their partner institutions, which pay them a per-head commission?  Do they counsel or script students when it comes to the visa interview preparation?  What do colleagues have to say about company A, B, or C?

Don’t rely on any external “stamps of approval,” which are limited in value for a host of reasons, including the (in)ability to monitor the activities of “certified” agents.  (Examples of naughty yet “certified” agents provide ample grist for another post or even a full-length article.  That’s an article waiting to be written by some enterprising investigative journalist.)

Here are some relevant articles and posts I’ve written: 

Walking the walk – Ethical agency-based recruitment (12.12.14)

Buyer beware – Advice for international students (15.7.16)

Take responsibility for ensuring ethical recruitment (30.9.16)

The Tip of the Iceberg? “China’s New Oriental accused of US application fraud”  (21.12.16)

Hold your education agents to your high standards, stay in frequent touch, and keep the lines of communication open.  Trust, if you have a reason to, but always verify.  Use the tried-and-true carrot and stick approach.  Business is based on trust, which is inextricably linked to integrity, relationship and performance.  If they don’t meet your high expectations, there are other fish in the sea.

Finally, don’t put too many of your international student recruitment eggs in the education agent basket, especially in competitive markets like Viet Nam.  You will also need to invest time and money in non-commission-based recruitment tools and techniques.

Peace, MAA

 

Direct Applications on the Rise

education-agentsWhile Viet Nam is still primarily an agent-driven market, growing numbers of students are beginning to bypass education agents and apply directly to educational institutions, especially for certain types of institutions and programs with simpler application procedures.  In some cases, more than 50% of all apps are directly from students.

The reasons for this recent trend are increased access to information, both on- and offline, more confidence, and greater sophistication.  Given the quality and ethical problems that plague many education agents, the more Vietnamese students (and international students, in general) who apply directly, the better.  

There are some students who don’t require the services of an education agent, thereby saving money and sparing both student and parent the potential aggravation of working with dodgy agents.  They include academically talented students who have done their homework, so to speak, and know which institutions they want on their short list, as well as those who know exactly which school they want to attend because of their participation in a fair, info session, or based on a recommendation from someone they trust, e.g., a parent, teacher, or friend. 

This is an encouraging win-win trend, in my opinion, that should be promoted.  It gives students and parents more control over the entire process, eliminates the need to work with an agent, many of whom do not have students’ (and parents’) best interests at heart, and saves admitting institutions the cost of a commission.  What’s not to like?     

Peace, MAA