Summer 2017 VietAbroader Study Abroad Camp (VASAC) in HCMC & Hanoi

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

I’m pleased to share with you information about the summer 2017 VietAbroader Study Abroad Camps (VASAC) in mid-July.  These events are different than in years past because they will last for four (4) days instead of one (1).

For those of you who don’t about VietAbroader (VA), whose slogan is Empower Vietnamese Youth, it is the premier student-run organization in Viet Nam that helps young people who want to study overseas, in particular in the US.  I’m honored to have served as a VA adviser almost since the very beginning in 2004.  It started out as online forum and then expanded by offering events such as the VASAC, which was first organized in 2005.  (I was a speaker at the Hanoi conference.)

There are two ways in which you can participate in the VASAC:

1)  Institutional sponsorship: Please follow these links to download the institutional sponsor proposal and the institutional sponsor benefit package.

2)  Participation in the Education Fairs, which are free and open to the public.  This is free of charge and you can have a currently enrolled student who’s home for the summer, or an alum, represent you at the fair(s), if you’re not able to travel to Viet Nam.

If you’re interested in becoming an institutional sponsor and/or participating in the public fair(s), please contact one of the VA representatives listed on the last page of the sponsor proposal.
Help VietAbroader Pass the Torch and Empower Vietnamese Youth!

Breaking into Cambodia: Asia’s new tiger economy

cambodian flag

My latest article, this time about Cambodia, was published by The PIE Blog with this introduction:

An economic transformation, demographic change and greater access to digital resources are all driving demand for study abroad among Cambodian students. Mark Ashwill, managing director of Capstone Vietnam, shares why the market is ripe for overseas institutions looking to recruit international students, and what they should consider when they do.

Follow this link to read it in its entirety.


Away from home: More Vietnamese leaving for richer countries

Students registering at the fall 2016 StudyUSA Higher Education Fair in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC).

This is the mildly provocative title of a recent VNExpress International article about Vietnamese studying, working, and seeking permanent resident status overseas.  While it may entice more netizens to read the article, the reality it attempts to describe is more multifaceted and complex than the black/white picture it paints.

Yes, significant numbers of young Vietnamese are studying overseas, including nearly 30,000 in the US alone, some with the intention of remaining, others not sure of their future path, and yet others with the goal of returning home.  (The statistics of Vietnamese studying overseas are outdated in this article; there are over 110,000 in the top five host countries alone:  Japan, the US, Australia, China, and Singapore.)

In fact, many do return home, if not immediately following completion of their studies, then after some time working overseas.  There are also growing numbers of overseas Vietnamese who are returning to their homeland (or that of their parents) to tap into Viet Nam’s dynamic and rapidly expanding economy.

Many of those high net worth individuals who invest in order to become US permanent residents, (similar programs in other countries), i.e,. who essentially buy a green card, are not emigrating.  They are essentially hedging their bets, diversifying their investments, and ensuring that they have more options in the future.

The significant number of Vietnamese working overseas benefit their families and Viet Nam through the money they send home, which is included in the $13 billion in remittances last year.  In addition, most will eventually return home, which will benefit Viet Nam’s economy.

The lure of the American Dream, which is a result of family ties and the often mistaken belief that the grass is greener on the other side, has contributed to Viet Nam’s status as a top 10 emigration country for the US.


“The Trump Impact Abroad” (Focus on Viet Nam)


trump-impact-abroadHere’s an excerpt from my most recent University World News article:

I spent part of a recent Sunday morning speaking to group of Vietnamese students in Hanoi who had participated in a US culture and society contest. Several were from talented and gifted high schools, including some of the finest in Viet Nam. Most had plans to study overseas, primarily in the US, but also other countries such as Australia and Canada.

At the end, I asked if they had any questions for me. One that really stood out was from a high school student who wants to study in the US. He asked if the US higher education curriculum would change if Donald Trump were to be elected president, adding rather emphatically that he would not study in the US if this was the case.

photo_4450The teaser is from the editor:  The United States election campaign could have a significant impact on the US’s ability to recruit international students from countries like Viet Nam.  While I believe that a Trump victory could have an impact, I’m not sure how significant it would be in Viet Nam, in contrast to other countries like Indonesia and Mexico. 

Follow this link to read the article in its entirety


How a Chinese company bought access to admissions officers at top U.S. colleges

dipont-logoKudos to the four (4) Reuters reporters for their outstanding work on this investigative report.  Only when this type of unethical behavior sees the publication light of day and the proverbial shit hits the fan is there any action, in most cases.  While there are some Vietnamese companies that would love to have this kind of reach and influence, I don’t think any do…yet.

There are companies that are happy to write statements of purpose (SOPs) and “teacher” letters of recommendation for students whose goal is to gain admission to a highly selective institution, and are richly rewarded for doing so. It’s not that the young people in question are poor students, it’s that an “enhanced profile” may result in more scholarship funding.

no cheatingParents and students who work with these types of companies can be viewed as willing co-conspirators.  The former view this partnership in unethical conduct and the upfront costs associated with it (think 5-10-15k or much more) as an “investment” in their children’s future.  Ideally, the ROI is a generous scholarship package and, of course, bragging rights.

Does it work?  In most cases, yes.  Why?  Because US colleagues do not have enough time or resources to verify as part of the “trust but verify” process.  This explains the growing popularity of video interviews because, to a certain extent, seeing and hearing are believing.


P.S.:  Gotta love the name of the offending company. Kinda reminds me of the name of a certain famous family associated with my home state of Delaware.  Hint:  think gunpowder and chemicals. 😉

The Agony of Choice

A Proliferation of Overseas Study Destinations for Vietnamese Students

The number of possible overseas study destinations is increasing for Vietnamese students, which is an encouraging trend for both them and their families. Below are the top 10 most expensive and inexpensive countries to study in, according to a 22.9.16 Independent article entitled Germany and Sweden named the cheapest places to attend university.

Many of these countries offer long-term work and even emigration opportunities, if so desired.  All of the top five host countries this year are among the most expensive countries to study in except China.  Together, they host about 110,000 young Vietnamese.  Keep in mind that there are plentiful scholarship and work opportunities for Japan-bound Vietnamese students.

  1. Japan
  2. USA
  3. Australia
  4. China
  5. Singapore

The top five countries are in bold red and other countries with significant numbers of Vietnamese students are in bold blue.  There are others not listed here that have identified Viet Nam as a strategic priority, including Ireland and the Netherlands.  More choices equals more competition for the top host countries.

Country Average tuition fee Average living cost Average annual total
USA £31,296 £14,403 £45,699
Australia £18,611 £12,654 £31,265
New Zealand £16,905 £12,006 £28,912
Canada £15,732 £8,268 £24,140
Hong Kong £12,626 £6,336 £18,963
United Kingdom £8,994 £9,233 £18,227
Singapore £11,882 £5,796 £17,678
Israel £2,555 £13,932 £16,487
Switzerland £1,152 £14,797 £15,949
Japan £6,111 £8,361 £14,471

Least expensive countries to study in

1 Germany* £331 £6,369 £6,701
2 Sweden* £13 £6,694 £6,707
3 South Africa £3,496 £3,452 £6,948
4 Finland* £88 £7,226 £7,313
5 Taiwan £2,498 £5,006 £7,503
6 Denmark £0 £8,193 £8,193
7 Austria £650 £7,651 £8,301
8 Belgium £741 £7,849 £8,590
9 Russia £4,665 £4,627 £9,292
10 Norway £110 £9,202 £9,313

Choosing Clients & Partners is a Two-Way Street: Quality Matters

Money is how companies with no ethical compass measure success.2-way-street

The company I work for, Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company founded in 2009, with offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), works exclusively with regionally accredited (RA) institutions of higher education in the US.  As far as I know, it’s the only company in Viet Nam, and indeed the world, that has this policy. (If you know of another, let me know!  A prize to the first person whose answer I’m able to confirm.)

Why?  Because quality and integrity are more important than money.  Since regional accreditation is the gold standard of institutional accreditation in the US, students and parents can be assured that minimum standards of quality have been met and maintained.  US higher education fair attendees can be assured that there are no “bad apples” in the ballroom.  US higher education colleagues who choose to work with the company can be assured of honor by association. Capstone has politely declined to work with quite a few schools because the company you keep and the standards you uphold take precedence over cash flow.

Nationally accredited (NA) institutions, while “officially accredited,” are not in the same academic league as their RA cousins.  In fact, in terms of quality and ethics, some of them comprise a veritable rogue’s gallery of schools, including those that are essentially visa mills.  Moreover, the majority of these schools do not inform students and parents that most RA institutions will not accept credits and credentials transferred from NA schools.  Why is that, I wonder?

gold-standardFor most educational consulting companies, it’s all about “showing me the money”, which means they’ll work with anyone who can afford to pay them, including rogue providers (unaccredited schools), in some cases.  Money is how companies with no ethical compass measure success.  For Capstone, it’s about quality first, which I find refreshing in the often murky and foul world of educational consulting.