Below are a couple of excerpts from a blog post I wrote at the invitation of NAFSA’s International Enrollment Management (IEM) Knowledge Community.
While there are some indications that growing numbers of students, who are better informed and more empowered than ever, are applying directly to foreign educational institutions – a trend that we should all encourage because it enables colleagues from admitting institutions to exercise more control over the application process – Vietnam, like most sending countries, is still very much an agent-driven market.
Given this reality and the fact that competition is fiercer than ever, colleagues need to develop a long-term and diversified strategy that includes a variety of non-commission-based recruitment tools and techniques, both digital and offline, in addition to developing a quality and ethical agent network. Working with education agents should be just one of many tools in an institution’s recruitment toolbox. If it’s the only one, your recruitment efforts are doomed to fail in competitive markets.
Here’s a link to the original post, if would like to read it in its entirety on the NAFSA website.
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.
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.
…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.
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.
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.
In the latest SEVIS by the Numbers update in March 2018, only two (2) among the top 10 sending countries recorded an increase in the number of students studying in the US: Brazil and Viet Nam. The other eight (8) saw decreases ranging from 4.43% to .28%. Brazil jumped two places from 9th to 7th. Taiwan surpassed Japan to take 8th place because its enrollment decrease was less than that of Japan, which slipped to 9th place. The downward trend continued for Saudi Arabia and Mexico.
Viet Nam, with a nominal increase of 224 students (.71%), is treading water, statistically speaking. The most notable increases and decreases among Vietnamese students were for secondary schools, i.e., boarding and day (from 4,129 or 13.2% to 4,448 or 14.1%), and language training (from 2,754 or 8.5% to 2,398 or 7.6%), respectively.
Since I’ve heard of modest decreases in Vietnamese visa applications across-the-board, including student visas, I don’t expect this situation to change between March and the end of the fiscal year. What happens this summer, the peak season for F-1 issuances, will tell the story for this year. Stay tuned.
Keep in mind that probably about 9% of the F-1 Vietnamese higher education enrollment is for the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, based on IIE Open Doors 2017 data, meaning these are recent graduates who are currently working.
Below is an announcement about a new website created by Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company of which I’m managing director.
This 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.
One of the privileges and pleasures of my work is watching colleagues connect with young Vietnamese who are interested in overseas study, be it at a fair, coffee talk, info session, or individual meeting at a hotel.
Traveling to Viet Nam and other sending countries is still one of the most effective ways to recruit students, especially if the recruiter is good, which most are. Sitting at home because of budgetary constraints or other reasons and relying solely on armchair techniques is not going to get the job done, especially in competitive markets.
From parents’ and students’ perspective, it’s a way to put a face to an institution, someone they can like, respect, and trust. Someone who will follow up, be responsive to inquiries via email, Facebook, and chat apps, and stay in touch.
Good recruiters enjoy their work. You can hear it in their conversations and see it in their smiles and body language. So can students and parents. Those who do not take pleasure in their work seem (are?) bored and disinterested. It’s obvious their hearts aren’t in it. Fortunately, these individuals are few and far between.
As someone who helps create opportunities for colleagues to meet with Vietnamese students and parents, I have the utmost respect for my colleagues who do this important work and know how hard they work. While the life of an international recruiter may seem glamorous to the folks back home, including exotic pics posted on Facebook, and it does have its rewards, it is time away from loved ones and not enough time for proper rest and relaxation.
In addition, Viet Nam’s evening is their morning “back home”, i.e., for those from North America, which means they have additional work to complete, including emails and online chats with colleagues.
US colleagues, especially in higher education, have the added burden of essentially trying to counteract the statements, proposals, and policies of their own government, now more than ever. Rather than providing support or not doing anything at all, the US government, through President Trump and his supporters, is continuously setting up road blocks that they have to get around or hoops they have to jump through. The end results are huge amounts of wasted energy and growing frustration.
The main and immediate job-related reward for recruiters is admitting a new Vietnamese or other international student who gets a visa and arrives on campus ready to begin her or his new academic and cross-cultural adventure. A potential long-term reward is the personal, academic, and professional transformation that many young people undergo after a rewarding and substantive international experience.