(The PIE News, Nov 24,2017): Nhung “Rosie” Nguyen doesn’t care what President Donald J. Trump says.
“The US is home to the majority of the top 100 institutions in the world,” says Nguyen, 28, a public policy lecturer at the University of Economics, Ho Chi Minh City. “Earning a PhD from a decent US institution will further my career
Nguyen, who recently began cramming for the GRE with a fellow lecturer, already holds a master’s in public policy from the University of Bristol in the UK and has taught public finance to government officials for over a year.
The government’s recent insistence that every lecturer holds a PhD, however, resulted in a severe cut to Nguyen’s teaching hours, and now she’s looking to earn a doctorate abroad.
Nguyen, who studies how countries transition to democracy, sees the US as an ideal environment to pursue her speciality, and university rankings, PhD program rigour and funding opportunities trump, well, Trump.
Students and education agents echo Nguyen’s sentiments. Despite bombastic election rhetoric in the US and fallout from the new administration’s early executive orders, Vietnamese parents have returned their attention to quality and value, meaning it’s unlikely America will stop being the top destination for Vietnamese students anytime soon.
Those same industry observers caution, however, that rural families and the newly wealthy worry most about cost — an area in which the US could lose ground to traditional competitors like Canada, Australia, or the UK, and regional education hubs like Singapore, or even emerging markets for Vietnamese students such as Germany.
Vietnam is a promising market for education agents and foreign universities looking to bolster enrolment. Vietnam sent 53,546 tertiary students abroad in 2015, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. And figures from global market intelligence firm, StudentMarketing, show that another 5,257 students studied overseas at the K-12 level.
The Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training puts out a very different set of numbers, however, which says more than 100,000 students are abroad — the last year MOET data is available is 2013, in which the ministry put the number at 125,000.
Despite varying data, the trend is upwards. According to the USA’s IIE, 2015/2016 represented Vietnam’s 16th straight year of growth as a sender of students to the US.
“Vietnamese towns are now full of IT-savvy, brand-conscious shoppers”
And the top two destinations for Vietnamese students, according to UNESCO, are the US, where more than 16,000 attended a higher education provider as of 2015 (a separate US Department of Commerce puts that figure at 18,722 instead), and Australia, where more than 12,000 are enrolled at a college or university.
France comes in third (approximately 5,500), followed by the UK and Japan, both of which have between 4,000 and 5,000 Vietnamese students.
The number of clients looking for programs in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and elsewhere has increased in recent years, and Le believes this trend will continue until Vietnam has a regionally prominent domestic university — the US and Vietnam backed Fulbright University Vietnam could fill that role, he suggests.
“The rationale is simple — the top 5% richest in the country still choose [the] US, UK, Australia, Canada, but the new wave actually comes from the high-middle income or the middle-income class, and they are price sensitive,” Le says.
“Five years ago, students in Vietnam rarely chose Germany, Italy, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, Cyprus…” Le explains. “Nowadays, Vietnamese students go everywhere.”