Trump is not deterring Vietnamese from studying in US

Vietnam remains a hot country for United States colleges, universities, boarding and day schools interested in international student recruitment. Just as its economy has managed to weather the global storm of the past few years, Vietnamese young people continue to study abroad in large numbers, undeterred by Brexit, the 2016 US presidential election and other cataclysmic, potentially game-changing socio-political events.

In fact, the US is the world’s second-leading host of Vietnamese students – after Japan – with over 30,000 at all levels, mainly in higher education, according to the latest (June 2017) SEVIS by the Numbers quarterly update. However, Japan and the US are an apples and oranges comparison since the latter offers mostly short-term, vocational programmes.

Vietnam displaced Canada as the fifth-leading sending country to the US in March 2017, a position it continues to hold in the latest update.

Recent mobility trends

Given how volatile and dynamic the political situation is in some of the key host countries, it’s important for higher education leaders to have access to the best information available in order to make informed decisions about how to use their precious resources in recruiting internationally.

In that spirit, below are links to some articles and blog posts that provide accurate and up-to-date information about recent trends in Vietnam.
  • Vietnamese still have a favourable view of the US, but Trump is another story (27 June 2017, VnExpress International)

    This article is based on a recent Pew Research Center survey about the damage that President Donald Trump has done to the United States’ image around the world.

    Here is a key Viet Nam-related finding: “The drop in favourability ratings for the United States is widespread. The share of the public with a positive view of the US has plummeted in a diverse set of countries from Latin America, North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Favourability ratings have only increased in Russia and Vietnam.”

    While Vietnamese don’t think very highly of Trump (something they have in common with people in most countries), their favourable view of the United States has actually increased from 78% to 84%, the second-highest rise in the world at 6%.

    That figure rises to an astounding 92% among young Vietnamese aged 18-29, which has clear implications for the future prospects of student recruitment.

    Even favourable views of US Americans are at 86%, tied with South Korea for the highest percentage among all of the 37 countries surveyed.

    There are a number of possible reasons that could explain positive Vietnamese views of the US and its people:
      1 – A reaction against China, the result of current concerns about territorial conflicts in what is known in Vietnam as the East Sea (South China Sea) and Chinese influence on Vietnam's economy.
      2 – Another more deep-seated, historical reason could be that the official view during the American War in Vietnam (that is, the ‘Vietnam War’) is that it was a war between governments not peoples, which resulted in many Vietnamese differentiating between the US government and US Americans.
      3 – The fact that so many Vietnamese, especially in central and southern Vietnam, have family ties in the US, mainly the result of post-war waves of emigration.
      4 – The influence of US soft power, including music, movies, television, goods and services, etc. For example, 57% of Vietnamese respondents said: “I like American music, movies and television.”
  • In Vietnam, good parenting equals a straight-A kid, plus an American degree (25 June 2017, VnExpress International)

    This is an article about the desire of many parents of means to provide the best possible education for their children, in this case, in the US, as demonstrated by the financial and other sacrifices that parents are willing to make on behalf of their children.

    Dr Phung Xuan Nha, Vietnam’s minister of education and training, acknowledged this fact at a conference last December: “Vietnamese parents can sacrifice everything, sell their houses and land just to give their children an education.”

  • Vietnam enrolment up 6%, according to SEVIS biannual report (26 June 2017, An International Educator in Viet Nam)

    My blog post shows Vietnam is one of the few top 10 places of origin with a healthy year-on-year enrolment increase, according to the June 2017 SEVIS by the Numbers update and biannual report. It also hints at some regional shifts in enrolment that could also apply to Vietnamese students.

  • Brexit and US Election: No major short-term effects on VN student interest (24 June 2017, An International Educator in Viet Nam)

    While the results of this 2016 online Hotcourses survey of Vietnamese students are already somewhat dated, they confirm anecdotal in-country evidence and are consistent with the Vietnam-related results of the Pew survey. Interest in studying in the US declined by 9% last year, one of the lowest percentage decreases.

  • ACE releases signature mapping internationalisation on US campuses report (14 June 2017, American Council on Education)

    In this survey, which the American Council on Education conducts every five years, one of the key Vietnam-related findings was that “58% of the recruiting plans cited by respondents include geographic targets. By a clear margin, the top three target countries are China, India and Vietnam. These are followed by four additional countries, each of which was identified by 30-40% of respondents as a target: South Korea, Brazil, Japan and Saudi Arabia.”
The writing is on the wall

Vietnam is defying the odds, as it has in so many respects in the recent past and throughout its long, tumultuous and inspirational history.

The articles above show why US institutions should make Vietnam a priority country for international student recruitment and why they should develop or fine-tune an ethical recruitment strategy in what has become a fiercely competitive market, not only among US institutions but with those coming from countries that have recently discovered Vietnam as a potentially promising recruitment market.

While the recruiting wave will eventually break because of demographic and development-related factors, such as aging of the population and an improvement in the quality of the domestic higher education system for example, demand for overseas study will continue to gain momentum for now, barring unforeseen political and economic factors.

Dr Mark Ashwill is managing director of Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company with offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Viet Nam. Capstone is the only education company in Vietnam that works exclusively with regionally accredited colleges and universities in the US and officially accredited institutions in other countries. Ashwill blogs at An International Educator in Viet Nam.