Vietnam is a country in flux and the international education sector is no exception. In fact, it is a case study of changes and reforms. Mark Ashwill, the MD of Capstone Vietnam, looks at the current regulatory system for education agencies and what consultants must do to succeed in this exciting market.
This is the introduction to my latest PIE News blog post. Follow this link to read the article in its entirety.
I had a great time at the the fifth HATCH! Fair in Hanoi. I was there for part of the pitching competition in which young entrepreneurs have three (3) minutes to pitch their businesses to a jury board. (Yes, it’s exactly three minutes. They run a tight ship!) There are three (3) more minutes for the judges to ask questions. Last year, there were 305 applications and 54 “hand-picked startups”, an acceptance rate of 17.7%, not unlike that of the most selective colleges and universities in the US. (UC Berkeley had a 2016 acceptance rate of 17.5%.)
It was an inspiration listening to so many ideas, some of which will be transformed into practice and others not. The highlight was the pitch by Nam “Chris” Nguyen, of College Scout (CS), who finished with a few seconds to spare. I was impressed by his energy, focus, and enthusiasm. Congratulations to Nam for rocking it at the 5th HATCH! Fair!
What is College Scout (CS)?
It’s a Hanoi-based ed-tech startup whose services include but also transcend preparing young people for overseas higher education admission. Most companies focus on the latter. In other words, the professional spotlight is what happens before they board the flight to their host country to begin their studies and a new life. CS does that and much more. Perhaps more importantly, it prepares students for academic, cultural, and social success in a new and often very challenging environment. In doing so, it takes the long and holistic view of each young person as a student, future professional, and global citizen.
For families with students planning to study in North America, College Scout is a “one-stop readiness service”. Unlike traditional education agents and related companies that provide ancillary services related to overseas study, CS provides fun and effective prep activities that increase their chances for success not only in the application and admission process, but in the areas of academic, cultural, and social adjustment. (Full disclosure: I’m a proud member of the CS advisory board.)
What is HATCH!?
According to its website, the mission of HATCH! is to support entrepreneurs and promote the early-stage startup ecosystem in Vietnam. By the end of 2013, HATCH! was among the top names for entrepreneurship development in Vietnam, with activities that have made dozens of international headlines; and, not just for the organization, but also for our innovative startups, and their founders and investors, as well as HATCH! partners and sponsors.
HATCH! is the brainchild of Aaron Everhart, who had this to say about the organization: I’m pretty proud of building HATCH!, which grew from a small coffee-talk meeting in Ho Chi Minh City in 2012 to Vietnam’s largest and leading startup and entrepreneurship ecosystem builder. We’ve built it grass-roots using borrowed spaces, volunteer time, and instant coffee packets. Now we’re proud to be producing Vietnam’s only major international startup exhibition and conference, HATCH! FAIR each year… Aaron’s tag line is “I turn ideas into companies,” and he does!
Here’s an abridged version of a recent interview I did with Vietcetera, a “consortium of artists, writers, designers, photographers, musicians, technologists, and business people dedicated to a fresh look at an evolving Vietnam. Vietcetera seeks to find the untold human stories of the people that are contributing to a new, modern Vietnam. From design to business to architecture to film. We want to both give a new and youthful take on Vietnam that both local and foreigners can appreciate.”
World Education Services has long advocated Vietnam as a viable recruitment market for institutions in North America. Understanding these students’ culture and family backgrounds, as well as the contextual factors that can ‘push’ them from Vietnam and ‘pull’ them toward institutions in other countries, can go a long way toward helping institutions develop an actionable plan for reaching out to and them.
This is a good analysis by WENR with a couple of exceptions:
The United States is, depending on who is reporting, either the number one, two or three destination for outbound students from Vietnam.
There is no doubt about the ranking, if you look at the latest figures from the US and Japanese governments. Japan is the world’s leading host of Vietnamese students, broadly defined, as the article notes, followed by the US. Every time I check the SEVIS figures, based on the latest quarterly update, I also check the latest stats from the Australian government, since the two countries are usually pretty close in Vietnamese enrollment.
A more immediately relevant event is the recent move by Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training to deregulate Vietnamese education agents.
This “deregulation” occurred in the summer of 2016. A new plan has since been approved that is similar to, but different from, the old one. The two main provisions of Decree No. 46/2017/ND-CP, recently issued by the Vietnamese government, are that they are no longer required to deposit 500 million VND (approximately $22,000 at the current exchange rate) and, once again, advisers will be required to take a course and be certified by the education authorities.
This is a useful resource that reveals the following information, most of it fairly up-to-date, about Vietnamese online habits. The relevant data graphics are displayed after four (4) key questions.
Keep in mind that Viet Nam currently ranks 7th in the world for Facebook users with about 64 million accounts, a 40% increase (!) this year alone. This in a population of about 96 million. (That’s 3% of the global total.) It’s clear that those are not unique accounts and that many people have more than one, which also applies to mobile phones. Ho Chi Minh City ranks among the top 10 cities globally for having the most Facebookers with 14 million users.
How do Vietnamese connect to the Internet?
Do they use the Internet for personal purposes?
How often do Vietnamese go online (for personal Internet usage)?
What online activities do they do on their smartphones at least weekly?
This is the latest top 10 ranking for Viet Nam and it’s extraordinary like the country itself, in many respects. It was not that many years ago when Vietnamese Facebook accounts numbered in the hundreds of thousands. What is especially striking is the 40% increase in only six months.
In a population of about 96 million, rounded up, suffice it to say that Facebook is about to plateau, if it hasn’t already. Yes, Facebook is the #1 website in Viet Nam, according to SimilarWeb and Facebook Messenger is the #1 chat app in a very crowded and competitive marketplace of chat apps.
Viet Nam is one of the reasons why Facebook earned $8.03 billion in revenue and $1.04 actual EPS in the first quarter of this year with nearly 2 billion users.
In its latest quarterly report, Facebook beat analyst expectations on profitability and on revenue for the ninth straight quarter. Viet Nam is one of the reasons why total revenues were $9.32 billion, a 45% increase over last year’s second quarter. The greatest contributing factor was mobile advertising. (For better and for worse, just over 2 billion people, an estimated 27% of the entire human race, are on Facebook.)
If you want to advertise any product or service in Viet Nam, especially for young people but , increasingly, for their parents, too, you have to use Facebook. This is one reason why Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth, which currently stands at $72.7 billion, making him the planet’s 5th-wealthiest person, will continue to increase.
It was another rewarding and enjoyable NAFSA annual conference with nearly 10,000 attendees. My week was filled with meetings with colleagues from the US and many other countries that have targeted Viet Nam as a priority country. While most are interested in recruiting (more) Vietnamese students, some have other project ideas.
Riding the Wave
I kicked off conference week with a Viet Nam student recruitment seminar entitled Riding the Wave. I first organized this free, unofficial, pre-conference seminar last year in Denver because there were no Viet Nam-related workshops or general sessions offered.
The title is reference to current societal and market conditions, i.e., the interest in overseas study among Vietnamese parents and students that is the result of several factors, including the young median age of the population (30.1), rapid economic development and the concomitant growing ability to pay, and the substandard quality of much of the domestic higher education system, among other reasons.
The wave will break at some point due to demographic factors, improvements in the quality of Vietnamese higher education, and trends that are difficult to predict for those of us who don’t have a crystal ball.
I was joined by Phúc (Théodore) Phan, Co-Founder and Instructional Designer, College Scout (CS), who talked about the exciting and cutting-edge work that CS, a Hanoi-based ed-tech startup, is doing to help prepare students for success.
I wrapped up a very busy week by chairing a general session about how to recruit students in Viet Nam without using an education agent. (Ideally, institutions do both in highly competitive markets like Viet Nam.)
This session was well-attended in spite of the fact that it was scheduled in the last time slot on the final day of the conference. Many more would have attended had they not been on their way home. My only wish is that we had had more time.
NOTE: If you’re interested in obtaining a PDF copy of our presentation, you can download it from the conference site or app until mid-August (must be logged in), or contact me.
Finally, thanks to my distinguished colleagues, Diana Sampson (Shoreline Community College, WA) and Stephanie Sieggreen (Western Kentucky University) for their outstanding contributions. It was a pleasure and an honor to work with both of them.