Recruitment of Vietnamese students limited by red tape

Between 1 and 4 July, social media channels across Vietnam were inundated with posts celebrating both Canada and the United States’ respective birthdays. With nearly 5,000 Vietnamese students studying in Canada, and more than 21,000 studying in the US, the social media streaming back to Vietnam on 4 July reached a much wider audience and emphasised the difference in Vietnamese nationals, particularly international students, living in each country.

Not only does the US have more than four times Canada’s total number of Vietnamese students, but Vietnam ranks fifth in the US and 11th in Canada for origin of inbound students.

Despite consistent growth in Vietnamese enrolments in Canada, in 2015 Canada attracted only 4,885 Vietnamese students – fewer than either Russia or Taiwan. With Vietnam’s market for overseas education projected to continue its breakneck growth, Canada should extend its Canada Express Study or CES visa pilot beyond its initial September 2017 deadline to encourage price-sensitive Vietnamese students to choose Canada for higher education.

In 2015, Vietnam ranked third-slowest for Canadian study permit processing time – just below Pakistan and Nigeria. In March 2016, Canada piloted the CES visa for 18 months in order to accelerate the visa-processing time for students enrolling in one of 45 CES-participating institutions.

The CES pilot eases financial pre-requisites by requiring that students have a CA$10,000 (US$8,000) guaranteed investment certificate with Scotiabank, a Canadian bank based out of Toronto. The certificate exempts families from the complex and time-consuming paperwork needed to prove financial support. Undoubtedly, Scotiabank benefits from an influx of deposits and young Vietnamese customers.

Booming popularity

CES-participating institutions are publicly supported colleges, institutes and polytechnics offering degrees and postgraduate certificates for price-sensitive career-minded students. From my experience, CES schools are attractive to the same income and academic bracket that maintains strong enrolment in US community colleges.

Due in large part to community college enrolments, in March 2017 Vietnam overtook Canada for fifth place for origin of inbound students studying in the US.

The official numbers for CES are not easy to calculate until the pilot period is over because processing a visa and enrolling in an institution can happen months apart. Once CES’s official figures are released we can measure the direct impact of Canadian recruitment within a market strongly held by the US.

Recruiters estimate that roughly 1,500 Vietnamese students processed their study permits through the CES programme during its first six months. If this projection holds true, during the first six months alone Vietnam jumped from 11th to at least ninth place for origin of inbound students studying in Canada.

Based on calculations from Global Affairs Canada, an additional 1,500 international students would have spent approximately CA$38 million within Canada for tuition, accommodation and discretionary spending. This boon to the Canadian economy alone warrants extending CES.

In recent months, recruiters and students in Vietnam report that places in CES-participating programmes are filling up quicker and Canada is now vetting students' applications through phone interviews. This points to both the growing popularity of CES and unscrupulous recruiters supporting applicant fraud for willing, but unable students.

In Vietnam both phenomena are signs of booming popularity.

With the Asian Development Bank projecting Vietnam’s growth in gross domestic product to return to 6.5% in 2017, along with changing attitudes towards globalisation in the US, Canada has a unique opportunity to promote its multicultural, safe and reputable higher education system to a market willing and ever-able to afford the fees.

Canada would be wise to ride the wave of social media stirred up on Canada Day and assure students, parents and recruiters that CES will continue to drive Canadian higher education recruitment beyond its September 2017 deadline.

Deren Temel is manager of the Overseas Study Department in the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Email:


There were 30,274 Vietnamese students in the US, as of May 2017.

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