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


New Website: Recruit in Viet Nam

Below is an announcement about a new website created by Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company of which I’m managing director.

Peace, MAA

Logo Recruit in vietnam final-01This website is intended to serve as a one-stop resource for student recruitment in Viet Nam for colleagues from all over the world.  It was inspired by a session that Dr. Mark Ashwill, Capstone managing director and co-founder, chaired at the NAFSA 2017 annual conference in Los Angeles entitled Keys to Successful Non-Commission-Based Recruitment in Vietnam

A sound institutional recruitment strategy should ideally include tools and techniques that do not involve the use of education agents and commission-based recruitment in cooperation with quality and ethical agents.  The Recruit in Viet Nam website focuses exclusively on the former. 

There are many different ways to recruit both digitally and traditionally.  You have to discover works best for your institution through a process of self-reflection and, sometimes, trial and error.  We are happy to help guide you through this challenging process – at no charge.  (In addition, you will need local feedback on draft content, including digital and offline materials, which is included in the cost of the service.)

The truth is not every institution that targets Viet Nam as a priority country will be successful but we can help ensure that you are using your time and resources as wisely as possible in order to give you the best chance to succeed. 

There are approximately 200,000 young Vietnamese studying in around 50 countries.  About 147,000 are in the top five (5) countries alone, including – in descending order – Japan, the USA, Australia, China, and the UK.  This means that Viet Nam will continue to be a dynamic and promising recruitment market for an increasingly diverse array of host countries. 


How the Vietnamese Use the Internet, Including Social Media

Since most young Vietnamese, including those planning to study overseas, are online, one question to ask yourself is: how big is your digital footprint in Viet Nam?

logo-newerHere is my latest PIE News blog post.  It’s about an important topic that I discussed during my E20 webinar last week and in my recent StudyUSA Higher Education Fairs country briefing and discussion. 

Peace, MAA

Rhetorical Question: “Why don’t Viet Nam’s universities rank higher in Asia?”

uwn rankings article 3-18

There is a tendency in Vietnam, with the media as an on- and offline amplifier, to engage in self-flagellation about education and other societal issues rather than looking carefully at the broader context and the, sometimes, hopeful reality. This results in journalists and many Vietnamese playing the ‘blame game’. The obvious targets here are the Vietnamese government, including the Ministry of Education and Training, and the nation’s universities.

This is my latest article for University World News.  I wrote it because I think some of the reporting in the Vietnamese media is unfair and doesn’t take into account rankings methodologies.  Follow this link to read the article in its entirety.

Peace, MAA

Of Intercultural Incompetence & Chutzpah


My wife and I recently had lunch at a restaurant in downtown Hanoi.  It was after the 12 noon rush and there was only one other guest where we chose to eat, a middle-aged white expat man who was eating, drinking, and reading a book.  So far, so good, right? 

After a couple of very quiet telephone conversations, he asked my wife – in good Vietnamese – if she would please not talk on the phone because he was trying to read his book. (Being the bad boy that I am, I told her to go ahead and make some more calls.) 

After we finished our lunch in an atmosphere of tension, I got up, looked him in the eye, and asked him if he spoke English.  “Yes.”  I then asked him how long he had been living in Viet Nam.  He (proudly?) replied, “20 years,” to which I responded, “Your Vietnamese is very good but you don’t know Vietnamese culture,” the ultimate insult to an expat who thinks he knows the culture, in addition to the language.  My parting advice to this hapless fellow, sitting there looking dumb, mouth agape, was to stay at home, alone, if he wanted to read his book in peace.

That was the first time in the over 12 years I have been living and working in Viet Nam and the over 22 years since my first trip here that one person had the gall to admonish another for using a phone in a public place.  It wasn’t about speaking loudly, which is not uncommon here and in many countries, including the US, but about simply talking on the phone. 

This guy was a perfect example of someone who had mastered Vietnamese but who insisted on imposing his own code of conduct on others, something he had (has) no right to do.  Another recent example is of a young US American, also fluent in the language, who put both feet into his mouth when he insulted a national hero in a flippant Facebook post aka comeback in a snide expat game of one-upmanship.  (The backlash and blowback were fast and furious.)

Was it intercultural incompetence, white male privilege, a neocolonialist mindset, individual rudeness, or all of the above? 


P.S.:  If he plans to repeat this cultural mistake in the future, he should be careful who he scolds.  The next outcome may not be as genteel.  He didn’t look like the type who was ready to “mix it up” in schoolyard fashion. 

Season’s Greetings from Viet Nam!

2017 holiday message

After yet another year of Information, Insights & (Occasionally) Intrigue, I would like to take a moment to wish you, dear reader, and your family a peaceful holiday season full of joy and cheer, and a Happy, Healthy, & Fulfilling Solar New Year! 

giang sinh 2017

While we may have different backgrounds and work in different fields and sectors, we are united by our interest in Viet Nam and our hope for its continued progress on the path to sustainable development.  



Meet the new boss, similar to the old boss: new agent regulations unveiled in Vietnam

logo-newerVietnam 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.