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Migration and ROI fuelling Vietnamese interest in overseas study

Migration opportunities and cost v. benefit analysis on studying abroad – even at high school age – are contributing to robust opportunities for international educators that choose to engage with Vietnam.

High demand for international study was reflected in the popularity of TNE programs and the importance of IELTS testing in Vietnam. Photo: The PIE News

There is deep interest in both high school programs overseas and 1+2 TNE options

In a country that has a clear obsession with English language proficiency and IELTS testing, and with a widely held cultural view that education is a worthy investment, there is strong underlying interest in international education opportunities, whether via a TNE springboard in Vietnam or not.

The PIE spent a week speaking to stakeholders in Vietnam and discovered a large and inter-connected education agency industry, long-standing familiarity with the concept of “master agent platforms” and a growing ecosystem of In-Country Reps (often called ICRs) who also support the sector and work of agencies.

Visiting one of the flagship University Access Centres – a new strategy from INTO – in Ho Chi Minh City provided a way to speak to stakeholders, including students, and helped expose a clear national divide between the south of Vietnam – where the US seems to dominate country preferences – and the north of Vietnam, where countries such as the UK, Australia and Canada have more of a pull.

In-country representatives provide deep counselling support to agencies and their families,The PIE discovered – and the well-established ecosystem of advising can also comprise IELTS tutors who dabble in advising.

IELTS testing has huge national interest in Vietnam

Many stakeholders agreed that migration and PR pathways in Canada mean that this destination is slowly gaining market share in a country with students determined to see impactful outcomes on their investment.

And in a country where the number-one concern about living overseas relates to safety and assimilation, there is also deep interest in both high school programs overseas – ensuring early entry into a new cultural environment and the associated immersion and language acquisition benefits – and 1+2 TNE options, beginning year one undergraduate studies at home.

The cost of international schools in Vietnam was surprisingly high, meaning considering high school study abroad was not prohibitively expensive, even considering flights and accommodation overseas. Typical annual costs in Vietnam ranged from US$15,000-22,000, according to various sources.

This was reflected in outbound figures – approximately 30% of the Vietnamese students relocating to New Zealand are going for high school study, according to Van Banh, Vietnam country director at Education New Zealand.

A rich TNE ecosystem in Vietnam also became apparent. Despite only one overseas branch campus in the country – Australia’s RMIT – there are a high number of articulation agreements between Vietnamese institutions and overseas partners on offer too.

RMIT Vietnam campus

In the same week that The PIE was in Vietnam, Swinburne University in Australia announced an extension of its partnership agreement with FPT University, for example.

“We have around 5,000 students studying TNE programs in Vietnam”

“Currently we have around 5,000 students studying TNE programs in Vietnam,” said Van Anh Hoang, director of education and society at the British Council Vietnam. In comparison, Hoang said that approximately 2,700 UK study visas were issued to Vietnamese students last year.

Meanwhile, speaking on a PIE webinar live from Ho Chi Minh City, Rebecca Ball, Austrade’s senior trade and investment commissioner for Vietnam and Cambodia, remarked that Australia has a “strong brand” in Vietnam “with a lot of the transnational partnerships here too”.

“More than 22 Australian institutions have got about 19 or 20 different joint programs,” Ball said. “There’s always more coming online which is really exciting.”

Van Lang University in Ho Chi Minh City has recently established an International Education Institute, working with Liverpool John Moores University in the UK and University of Newcastle, Australia to deliver programs in Vietnam.

Ngo Quang Trung, vice-president at Van Lang University, said that student demand for franchise programs was high due to the low comparative cost of obtaining a foreign degree and the option for students to study overseas in their final year.

The PIE interviews Uyen Tran, an in-country university representative

RMIT Vietnam, with its English medium campus and 20-year track record of working in the country, also clearly enjoyed an enviable reputation with its graduates, whether they transferred overseas or not, winning favour with employers who wanted global graduates ready for the workplace, explained Oanh Nguyen Tuong, RMIT’s international manager.

“Because of the English, they’re very strong when they work with international companies,” Tuong said. “Students get soft skill training too – communication, leadership and global citizenship.”

For students intent on going overseas for full undergraduate or masters programs, the advent of new “master agent platforms” such as Adventus and ApplyBoard has increased the choices on offer for agents – and therefore their clients, stakeholders agreed.

But with so much choice, the value of both study fairs and also in-country reps, who can facilitate direct alumni discussion or give targeted insight into particular program cohorts at an institution abroad, is heightened, if anything.

Students attend a careers talk at INTO’s UAC

Dedicated marketing to help institutions stand out for clear job outcomes or USPs is another aim of the INTO UAC model.

The tacit support of entities such as the British Council, Education USA and Austrade was also valuable – pre-departure ceremonies organised by EducationUSA for any US-bound students, for example, helped build collegiality among those headed to the US.

And the development of a Study Melbourne study hub from Global Victoria, envisaged as a Covid-era solution for students unable to get to Australia, has proven a longer-term boon for RMIT Vietnam, offering a city centre study haven for those students who don’t want to get to campus in the commuter territory of district 7.

The Study Melbourne team at the Vietnam hub

The PIE will be producing a full report on our Vietnam findings and insight soon.

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