For the Vietnamese, their appetite for an education overseas continues to grow year on year. We’ve combed through a number of sources to present a clear view on historical to present day trends in destinations – from old time favourites such as Australia or the USA to the rising popularity of regional markets such as Japan and South Korea. We’ve also dug up figures covering all sectors from K-12 to language and up to the tertiary level.
Below you’ll find a plethora of statistics to guide your strategic planning when recruiting in Vietnam, and as always, feel free to contact us for help or advice when exploring your options in Vietnam.
There is increasing evidence to support the fact that Vietnam’s outbound market gets better with each passing year. For example:
Education Minister Phung Xuan Nha has repeatedly said in numerous speeches throughout 2016 and 2017 that Vietnamese families are spending as much as USD 3-4 billion each year on sending their children abroad to study.
In a report released June 2017, HSBC said Vietnamese parents place great importance on their child’s education, with spending on education accounting for a hefty 47% of the total household expenditure.
Vietnam’s Department of Foreign Training under the Ministry of Education and Training confirmed that education expenditure includes many children as young as 12 years old being sent to independent boarding schools, primarily in the UK, US, Australia, and Singapore. Vietnamese parents are known to cite their desire for providing a safe, comfortable environment for their children as a primary factor when for selecting boarding schools.
A variety of sources indicate that 90% of outbound students from Vietnam are self-funded. For example, in 2016, 5,519 students were granted government scholarships to study in 44 countries, which is only 4.2% of all Vietnamese students abroad.
The outbound student recruitment market in Vietnam
The number of Vietnamese studying abroad varies depending on the source and education levels included.
Education Minister Phung Xuan Nha said at the end of 2018, approximately 170,000 Vietnamese are studying abroad. This is up significantly from previous statistics:
130,000+ Vietnamese citizens studying abroad as of 2016
110,000+ in 2014
125,000+ in 2013
Moreover, the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) reported that as of 31 December 2018, there were 572,415 valid study abroad permit holders.
Higher education students abroad
Looking at just the tertiary sector, the OECD cites 26,278 Vietnamese abroad in 2006 and 55,551 in 2010.
Meanwhile, UNESCO reports that 82,160 Vietnamese studied abroad at the tertiary level as of 2017 (up from 55,980 in 2013). They list the top destinations as follows:
22,172 in 2017
19,152 in 2017
6,071 students in 2014
15,298 in 2017
13,147 students in 2015
4,400 in 2017
5,284 students in 2015
3,979 in 2017
Popular courses for Vietnamese students
Vietnamese students study abroad at all levels, showing a keen interest in:
English language studies
The fields of study most in demand from Vietnamese students include:
Business and management
STEM subjects, especially engineering, maths and computer science
Hospitality and tourism
BMI’s biannual Global Education Fairs in Vietnam consistently draw in thousands of students looking for a variety of programmes, as recent statistics in the corresponding chart show. In addition to the aforementioned subject areas of interest, visitors to BMI’s student recruitment fairs in Vietnam also express interest in culinary studies, economics, marketing, public relations, education, social sciences, languages, film, media, communications, psychology, art and design.
ELT students abroad
Looking exclusively at the number of English language students from Vietnam studying overseas, market research firm Bonard reported on the top destinations in 2014:
Australia: 159,479 students
New Zealand: 3,046
South Africa: 69
Study abroad destination: Japan
Vietnam is the second largest source market for Japanese language institutes and higher education. The number of Vietnamese students in Japan has continued to grow over the years due to a variety of factors such as geographic proximity, cultural similarities, work abroad opportunities and strengthening economic ties.
The Japan Student Services Organisation (JASSO) provides an annual update of figures, and these include multiple levels of education such as degree and non-degree programmes, junior colleges, language and professional training institutes and university-prep programmes. JASSO reports their numbers are as follows:
72,354 Vietnamese students in 2018 – 24.2% of all international students in Japan and up 17.3% over 2017
61,671 in 2017 – 23.1% of total and up 14.6% over 2016
53,807 in 2016 – up 38.4% over 2015
38,882 in 2015 – up 47.1% over 2014
26,439 in 2014 – up 91.6% over 2013
13,799 in 2013
The number of Vietnamese studying in Japan, including in language schools, grew more than 12-fold between 2010 and 2016, according to JASSO.
JASSO also reported in 2018 that one in six students studying nursing in Japan is now from overseas, the majority from Vietnam.
Meanwhile, Vietnam’s MOET tells a different story:
38,000 students in 2016 (29.2% of the total) – likely includes only HE
38,882 in 2015 (up 47.7% from 2014) – same as JASSO’s report
13,328 in 2013 – slightly lower than JASSO’s statistic
MOET also noted that the number of Vietnamese students in Japan grew 110% between 2009 and 2014.
Turning back to JASSO, they break their numbers down accordingly:
Vietnamese in Japan’s higher education institutions:
In 2017: 35,489
In 2016: 28,579
In 2015: 20,131
In 2014: 11,174
In 2013: 6,290
Vietnamese in Japan’s language institutions:
In 2018: 30,270
In 2017: 26,182
In 2016: 25,228 (beating China that year to take the # 1 origin spot)
In 2015: 18,751
In 2014: 15,265
In 2013: 7,509
Vietnamese on short-term programmes in Japan:
In 2016: 463
Less than 2 weeks: 329
2-4 weeks: 64
1-3 months: 70
In 2015: 436
Less than 2 weeks: 317
2-4 weeks: 59
1-3 months: 58
3-6 months: 2
In 2014: 261
Less than 2 weeks: 152
2-4 weeks: 81
1-3 months: 28
In 2013: 182
Less than 2 weeks: 103
2-4 weeks: 43
1-3 months: 36
The story behind Japan-Vietnam links
Number of Vietnamese studying Japanese on the rise
For years, Vietnam and China have been vying for the top spot as the leading sender for Japanese language studies in Japan. In 2016, Vietnam claimed the title with 2,007 more students than China.
Vietnam did it again in 2018, when there were slightly more Vietnamese (30,270 which was 33.5% of the total) than Chinese (28,510 which was 31.5% of the total) studying Japanese in Japan.
It appears that the rate of students from Vietnam opting for Japanese language institutes is growing faster than that of China. For example, the number of Vietnamese students in these institutes grew by 4,088 from 2017 to 2018, while the number of Chinese grew by only 755 students.
According to the credential evaluators World Education Services (WES), “Vietnamese student pathways in Japan do not necessarily follow a conventional academic track. The majority of Vietnamese students start their educational journey at Japanese language school. Because most of them are self-funded, many also seek opportunities to work part-time to alleviate the financial burden. At the end of completing the language curriculum, more than half of the students enrol in vocational schools while a small percentage continue to universities.”
Economic ties between Japan and Vietnam holding strong
Vietnamese students’ interest in Japan should come as no surprise, given that Japan is already Vietnam’s third-biggest trading partner after China and the US. Two-way trade rose to about USD 30 billion in 2016, almost double the USD 16.8 billion in 2010, according to Vietnamese government data. The two countries aim to boost bilateral trade to USD 60 billion by 2020.
Japan is also the second-biggest investor in Vietnam, with a total of USD 42.5 billion of foreign direct investment as of March 2017 according to the Straits Times.
“The growing presence of Japanese companies in Vietnam has students and their parents thinking about studying in Japan, with an eye on landing a good-paying job with a Japanese company,” said Mr Itsuro Tsutsumi, director at JASSO’s student exchange department.
Study abroad destination: Australia
Australia has always been a popular destination for Vietnamese students, making the country Australia’s 7th largest source market.
29,989 students from Vietnam were in Australia as of 2018 enrolments, representing 3.4% of the total, but a 1.3% decrease compared to 2017
31,000 students in 2016 (23.8% of the total)
26,015 students in 2013, up 15.3% over 2012
25,788 students in 2010
The number of Vietnamese students increased by 75% between 2009 and 2015.
As of 2018, there are more than 60,000 alumni in Vietnam who completed their studies in Australia.
In the K-12 sector, a total of 1,781 Vietnamese students accounted for 10.3% of all international secondary students in 2013, according to reports from the Australian government. This made Vietnam the second-largest national group in Australian schools, placing Vietnam just ahead of South Korea (1,747) and firmly behind China (8,202).
Vietnamese students in America's K-12 sector
America’s secondary schools are proving to be increasingly popular for Vietnamese students and families.
In 2015, Vietnam was the 3rd largest source market for international secondary students, up from the 6th position in 2013.
America is by far the most popular country for K-12 Vietnamese students. IIE’s statistics from 2013 show:
Also in 2013, there were 16,098 Vietnamese studying in the USA at the post-secondary level.
Vietnamese students accounted for 10.3% of international secondary students in 2013, the 2nd largest national group after only China
New Zealand: 303
Vietnamese students in America's higher education sector
Community colleges in USA have high appeal for Vietnamese
Vietnam has been the number two source market for US community and associate colleges since 2010.
According to IIE’s stats from 2017/18, there were 10,496 Vietnamese students at community colleges in the USA (11.1% of the total).
This represents a 37% increase over the 7,656 students reported in 2012, which equalled 8.7% of all international K-12 students in the USA that year.
Vietnamese students in US universities
For higher ed providers, Vietnam is the 6th most popular sending market to the USA. For comparison, the country ranked in 13th place in 2007/08.
Vietnamese students spent nearly USD 881 million on studying in U.S. colleges and universities in 2017.
Nearly 50% of Vietnamese students in the US are studying business or engineering.
The top three states in the USA for Vietnamese students are California, Texas and Washington. The other states rounding out the top ten hosts of Vietnamese students are Massachusetts, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois and Georgia. In total, the top ten enrol almost 75% of all students from Vietnam.
Diaspora – there is an ethnic Vietnamese population of over 2.1 million in the U.S. as of 2019.
Vietnam’s MOET tally of students in America’s tertiary sector tend to swing higher than those of U.S.-based Institute of International Education’s (IIE). For example:
29,788 in 2018
28,000 students in 2016 (21.5% of the total)
28,883 in 2015
19,591 students in 2013, up 25.8% over 2012
According to an August 2018 update from SEVIS by the Numbers, 2.47% of all international students in the USA are from Vietnam. For comparison, in September 2015, that number was 1.08%.
Overall, there are more Vietnamese females (54.2%) than males (45.8%) but in STEM subjects, this weighting flips with 61.5% male and 38.5% female.
The demographic swings young:
Secondary school accounts for 11.7% of enrolments
Associate degrees: 29.1%
The IIE has reported that the number of Vietnamese students in the U.S. has grown for the 17th year in a row, as we’ve indicated in the visual below. While they also report that Vietnam is the 8th largest origin market for the Intensive English Program (IEP) sector, enrolments here have been slipping.
Study abroad destination: South Korea
In 2018/19 there were 27,061 Vietnamese students in South Korea, which equalled 19% of all international students in the country.
Meanwhile in 2017/18, that number was 14,614 students, three times higher than the number in 2015, making Vietnam the fastest growing market for Korea and the second largest source market.
For non-degree courses such as Korean language classes at universities, in 2018 there were 19,260 Vietnamese students which accounted for 34.3% of the total, surpassing their Chinese peers (29.8%), according to the National Institute for International Education under the Korean Ministry of Education.
News Flash! South Korea tightens visa rules for Vietnamese students
The Korea Herald reported in March 2019 that rising numbers of overstaying Vietnamese students have prompted South Korea’s Justice Ministry to tighten visa rules for applicants.
Vietnamese students will now have to deposit at least USD 10,000 in a Korean commercial bank with a Vietnamese branch, and submit proof thereof. They will also have a withdrawal limit of USD 4,443 for every six months.
Earlier, international students were only required to submit documentation to verify that they had at least USD 9,000 in a bank account in their name or that of their parents. However, many students took out loans to get the visa and proceeded to withdraw all the funds right after, the ministry said, explaining the new limit.
The report said that the new policies would only apply to Vietnamese students with D-4 visas attending universities that the Ministry of Education has deemed “poorly equipped to handle foreign students,” based on certain criteria including the percentage of students who overstay their visas and the percentage of students who fail to graduate.
International students will be permitted to work for “manufacturing” businesses if they have a TOPIK score of at least level 4. This is a measure aimed at preventing them from working illegally in South Korea.
Increasing economic ties between South Korea and Vietnam
As of the end of 2017, approximately 5,500 South Korean firms were up and running in Vietnam.
As of November 2016, a total of 5,656 foreign direct investments had been made by South Korean companies. This makes South Korea the biggest foreign investor in Vietnam, with total direct investment reaching a record-high of USD 7.4 billion from January till November of 2017.
Two private Korean firms have been particularly active in Vietnam: Samsung and Lotte.
When meeting Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Samsung Electronics President and CEO Koh Dong-jin said Samsung will continue to increase investment and production scales in Vietnam in the future: “Samsung will soon launch its research and development centre and continue training and technology transfer for Vietnamese firms in the support industry, particularly small- and medium-sized ones, to help them engage in supplying components for Samsung projects.”
In 2008, Samsung Electronics built its first mobile phone plant in northern Vietnam.
Samsung’s investment played a pivotal role in Vietnam’s economic development. Of Vietnam’s total exports, 11% were led by Samsung’s mobile phones in 2012.
In 2013, the company constructed its second plant in Hanoi.
In 2016 they built a TV-focused consumer electronics complex in Ho Chi Minh City.
As 2017, the company employed about 160,000 local workers and had about 200 local partners.
Lotte is also looking to expand in Vietnam’s retail sector, including supermarkets, department stores, high-end hotels and apartments, duty-free shops, and restaurant businesses. Lotte Mart, which operates 13 shops across Vietnam, plans to increase the number to 87 by 2020.
Study abroad destination: Canada
Vietnam is Canada’s 5th largest source market and the fastest growing market for international education in the country.
20,330 students from Vietnam were in Canada as of 2018, which accounts for 3.55% of the total and represents a 46% increase over 2017, according to the Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
The number of Vietnamese students jumped by 203% between 2005 and 2015, according to the Canadian government.
The distribution of international students by province is predictable (Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta account for 80% of Canada’s population). More than eight out of 10 international students are in three of the 10 provinces:
Ontario: 277,320 (48.45%)
British Columbia: 134,270 (23.46%)
Quebec: 70,185 (12.37%)
Other provinces with healthy international student enrolments include Alberta (29,865), Manitoba (18,725) and Nova Scotia (16,265).
BCCIE has reported that for the Canadian education sector, students around 15 years of age comprise the fastest growing market segment for education providers, due in part to their desire to increase their chances of entrance into a foreign university. Short-term summer schools in Canada are also starting to attract attention in Vietnam due to their competitive pricing and parents’ interest in sending their children to Canada to familiarise them with the country before deciding to send them for long-term study.
Study abroad destination: UK
Vietnam’s MOET reported in 2013 that there were 5,118 Vietnamese studying in the UK, a figure which included both secondary and post-secondary sectors.
Meanwhile, focusing in on the higher education sector, HESA recorded 3,480 Vietnamese students in 2017/18, down from 3,995 in 2015/16.
The UK Department of Immigration stats show the following numbers of Vietnamese given leave to enter the UK on a study visa:
2004 – 1,310
2005 – 1,250 (from the 1,470 study visas granted to Vietnamese that year)
2006 – 1,460
2007 – 1,770
2008 – 1,980
2009 – 2,090
2010 – 2,670 (2,963 granted)
2011 – 3,260 (3,421 granted)
2012 – 3,000 (3,290 granted)
2013 – 2,920 (3,386 granted)
2014 – 2,570 (3,124 granted)
2015 – 2,520 (2,922 granted)
2016 – 2,500 (3,153 granted)
2017 – 2,650 (2,889 granted)
In 2018, 2,818 study visas were granted to the Vietnamese.
Study abroad destination: NZ
Education New Zealand cites Vietnam as a key market for the country’s international education industry. The number of Vietnamese students increased by 7% in 2018 (34% for the high school sector), with over 2,500 Vietnamese now studying in New Zealand.
As of 2017, Vietnamese students contribute approximately NZD 90 million to the economy, up 32% over 2016, and of the total, an estimated NZD 21 million comes from Vietnamese school students studying in New Zealand.
The majority of Vietnamese in New Zealand study at the tertiary level, with private training establishments seeing the biggest increases in recent years, for example:
2010: 545 Vietnamese students
2010: 200 Vietnamese students
Private training establishment enrolments
2010: 275 Vietnamese students
Other popular education destinations for Vietnamese students
The corresponding chart is based on 2013 statistics released by Vietnam’s MOET. Two countries that have been proactively concentrating on inbound recruitment include China and Germany, both of which have been seeing success from the Vietnamese market as well.
Institutions in China are seeing increasing interest from students in Hanoi, and also other northern localities such as Hai Phong, Bac Ninh and Bac Giang which house many Chinese investment and trading companies.
Master’s degree programmes in economics, construction, communications and Chinese traditional medicine tend to be the most popular choices of Vietnamese applicants heading to Chinese higher education institutions.
In January 2019, the German parliament approved the “Bildungscampus Deutscheland” (German education campus) project in Ho Chi Minh City.
Its total investment is approximately EUR 25 million, with EUR 18 million funded by the federal budget of Germany.
It aims to build the International German School HCMC that can accommodate 600 students.
The project also includes plans for the construction of a modern vocational school, which is expected to provide training for about 600 learners.
Government-funded scholarships for Vietnamese students
In 2016, the Ministry of Education supervised and offered the government’s financial aid to 5,519 individuals studying in 44 countries around the world. These overseas students receive financial aid from the following funds: Project 911, Project 599, Bio-tech and Agriculture Project of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Pharmaceutical Chemistry Project of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, and scholarships from diplomatic agreements with 20 countries.
The 911 project, launched in 2013, is slated to fund study abroad of 10,000 PhD candidates until 2020 with up to USD 15,000 annually per student. It includes majors such as natural sciences, technological sciences, social sciences, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, pharmacy, economics, management, arts and sports.
Project 911 sets a target that Vietnam will have at least 20,000 more PhD degree holders by 2020, half of which will be trained in reputable universities and colleges around the world in order to increase the number of PhD instructors as well as improve educational quality in the country.
Countries offering more scholarships for Vietnamese students
The number of scholarships granted by other countries to Vietnamese students is on the rise:
New Zealand: In January 2019, Education New Zealand (ENZ) announced the New Zealand Schools Scholarships, the first of its kind, for Vietnamese teens. Thirty six high schools in New Zealand took part in the scholarship programme in order to encourage Vietnamese talents to discover a good education in New Zealand, with different scholarship levels of 100%, 50%, and 30% for the first school year. Vietnam is the only country to receive these scholarships, according to ENZ, aiming to strengthen the education relationship between the two countries.
Hungary: The government granted 100 scholarships in 2016, way up from five in the past.
Russia: 800 scholarships were given in 2016 instead of 400, and the figure was expected to rise to 1,000 by 2018. While scholarships awarded by the Vietnamese Ministry of Education were, as of 2016, predominantly given to students going to Russia, self-funded students prefer Western destinations.
Cambodia: The government offers scholarships for Vietnamese and Laotian students to study the Khmer language and engineering to encourage ASEAN mobility.
Recruiting in Vietnam
BMI runs more than 80 events in 15 countries each year. Join these events in Vietnam to recruit students directly via our fairs and attend our peer-to-peer events to build connections with high school counsellors and recruitment agents.
BMI's biannual Vietnamese student recruitment fairs consistently draw in thousands of academically-oriented students and their parents to bring them in direct contact with institutions from around the world. BMI also takes a limited number of accredited institutions on chauffeured visits to top-rated private high schools in both cities.