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“Third largest export market” Vietnam set for bounce back

Demand is rapidly increasing for international education among prospective students in Vietnam, stakeholders in the country’s study abroad market have said.

The PIE held the webinar on July 14 live from Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: The PIE News

Time must be spent getting “crystal clear” what differentiates each university partner

During a PIE Webinar on July 14 on Vietnam’s appetite for study abroad, Austrade’s senior trade and investment commissioner for Vietnam and Cambodia Rebecca Ball said that especially now Australian borders have opened, Vietnam is a key market for the country.

“It’s the fourth largest market for international students, and it’s really been rebounding since our borders reopened,” said Ball.

“We appreciate it will take a year or so, but the trends are looking really positive. We’re really fortunate with the proximity of our borders, so we have many institution and training representatives here on the ground in Vietnam,” she continued.

“92% of Vietnamese families want face to face and physical counselling to make such a big decision”

INTO’s CEO Olivia Streatfeild, also on the panel, mentioned that while a lot of students in Vietnam tend to go to countries like Korea or Japan, Vietnam is also the seventh largest market for all English-speaking countries. Having experiential presence is key to tapping into that market, she suggested.

“Vietnam is actually the third largest export market for international students,” Streatfeild commented.

“Some 92% of Vietnamese families want face-to-face and physical counselling to make such a big decision,” she said, citing the University Access Centres that INTO has just opened in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

Sang Nguyen, country director for IDP Education Vietnam, also said that the customer experience model is the “most important part” of the recruitment process – especially as there was interest, he said, in Australia for example even before the country’s border was open.

As ‘master agent’ portals become more popular in the Asian market – some are already well established, such as ATS – Streatfeild stressed that time must be spent getting “crystal clear” what differentiates each university partner beyond their location.

Master agent platforms opens up the range of institutions that agencies can work with although they still appreciate the help of an in-country rep, if available.

“[Effective marketing] requires some real face-to-face interrogation, tailoring that messaging and listening to the Vietnamese process… so that it’s extremely relevant to the specific needs of Vietnamese candidates,” said Streatfeild.

Also discussed was transnational education’s role relating to the expansion of Vietnam’s international education offering, as Asia begins to cement its place at the top of the market for new campuses. Just this week, Swinburne University of Technology announced a new campus in the city of Da Nang.

“We see [TNE] just continuing to grow, and it’s part of all our institutions and the strategies of how they are working with the client growth markets – especially Vietnam,” said Ball.

“We certainly see a more industry focused outcomes, and see it as employment outcome focused, and very much aligned to our strategic priorities between Vietnam and Australia.”

The range of courses and disciplines that garner interest from the Vietnamese market showed that high school programs are also popular.

“We see that high school student interest is growing in countries like the US, and while that dipped during the pandemic, now the border is open we see the number of high school students going up very fast,” said Nguyen.

While foundation programs, Streatfeild said, are extremely popular, Ball added that there has been an interesting rise the uptake of Australian curriculum in schools in Vietnam.

For example, South Australian Certificate of Education agreed a deal earlier this year to see the qualification delivered in Ho Chi Minh City for the first time.

“Schools are coming in with partnerships here in Vietnam, and that’s a really interesting development because it’s making us work a bit more creatively in how we’re working with school counsellors and the foundation programs,” Ball added.

“You can see that student preference is changing”

If those students then choose to undertake study in Australia, there is a whole different requirement of duty and of care, she noted.

Nguyen pointed out that IDP’s research found that the key driver with Vietnamese students wasn’t something like location, but quality of education, and how welcoming a place can be for international prospects. In terms of subjects studied, he said results showed that business and management programs are the most popular choice for students – but it may not stay that way for long.

“You can see that student preference is changing, and we can see more students choosing science and engineering, information technology and health science,” he said, as those are increasingly the best subjects in terms of career prospects.

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