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Vietnamese Students on the Move

29th January 2014 Posted by: Francesca Turauskis

A DECADE ago fewer than 10,000 Vietnamese families could afford to send their child abroad to study. Today there are more than 100,000 Vietnamese international students around the world, 90% of whom are funded by their parents. In a country where the average monthly salary is below US $200, this rise is incredible. It just goes to shows the high value that Vietnam’s fast-growing economy places on high education.

Vietnamese student

Why Study Abroad?
Vietnam has a growing youth population. This coupled with an increasingly prosperous middle class means that demand for university education is greater than ever before. In an effort to keep quality high, the Vietnamese government is introducing student quotas limiting the number of domestic university places even further. As a result, there are fewer university places than there are students.

As well as limited places, many students and families question the quality of education at Vietnamese universities. A number of private institutions funded by foreign investors have arisen to fill the shortage in spaces, but these are also widely criticised, and they are unauthorised and unrecognised by the government.

There is also a shortage of doctoral-holding faculty members at universities across Vietnam so postgraduate education cannot be offered in many cases. The Vietnamese government is sending its faculty members abroad to gain doctoral training. Therefore, both undergraduates and postgraduates are choosing to study abroad to gain globally-recognised degrees to increases job prospects. The move also boosts their language skills, which helps in the job market and with international relations.

Where do Vietnamese students study?
The top destinations are Australia, the US, China, Singapore and the UK, although over 60 different countries worldwide hosted Vietnamese students in 2015. English has become the dominant foreign language in Vietnam, with 98% of students choosing to study it over French, Japanese and German. Many students, therefore, seek English-speaking countries for their higher education.

The USA now has the largest number of Vietnamese students. More than 15,500 studied there in 2012 (six times as many as there were in 2000)  28,883 in 2015 and 30,817 as o March 2017. The majority of Vietnamese students, both at home and abroad, consider an American education the best in the world. They believe that the USA is the most scientifically and technologically advanced country in the world. The wide range of schools and subjects is also a big draw, and there are scholarships offered for academic excellence.

However, for the average Vietnamese student, the cost of a US education is off-putting. (In one survey, 84% said it would be an obstacle.) Tuition and overall living cost were perceived as much higher in the US than other countries such as Australia. Many Vietnamese students are starting to turn to American community colleges, where tuition fees are lower and courses last two years. Admission requirements are also lower for community colleges, making the language barrier less of an issue.

Australia used to be the hghest receiver of Vietnamese student, but numbers are dropping slightly. Over 22, 550 Vietnamese students studied there in 2012, and 21,807 in 2015. Australian qualifications are recognised across the world, and transferable to Vietnamese qualifications, and many Australian universities offer scholarships to international students. Living costs in Australia compare favourably with the United States and UK, and it is closer to Vietnam than other English-speaking countries, making visits home easier. Australia also has a solid Vietnamese migrant population, which has been steadily increasing since the 1970s, when many migrants chose to move to Australia after the Vietnam War. This means some Vietnamese students already have connections with Australia.

About of third of the Vietnamese students studying abroad stay in Asia, with China being the most popular Asian country. China and Vietnam have a long standing traditional relationship, and the number of Vietnamese learning Chinese is on the increase.

What do they study?
Four out of 10 Vietnamese students in the US are studying business and management, with economics and finance also being very popular subjects. Engineering, maths and computer science are also common choices, followed by life sciences, health professions and social sciences.

A student's view

This article was updated in March 2017.


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