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Vietnamese Education Industry

The transformation of the Vietnamese market through the economic reforms of Doi Moi in the 1980s has catapulted the economy into rapid growth, stabilizing at 5-7% growth over the last seven years.

The need for skilled professionals has emerged. Education has become a priority for both the government and its citizens as a path towards employment opportunities and financial stability. Although the Vietnamese post-secondary education system is in reform, it does not meet the quality or quantity demanded of Vietnamese students.  As a result, Vietnamese students often look outside of Vietnam for studies abroad.   

Through the economic growth, a growing upper middle class has emerged whereby a growing proportion of the population have the financial means to send their children overseas for education and subsequent employment.

In 2007, Canada began an educational campaign in Vietnam to attract the outflow of students looking for international education. According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, Canada saw an influx of Vietnamese students moving from around 250 students in 2007 to nearly 15,000 students in 2016-2017. Vietnam, as the country of origin, had the highest rate of increase last year for students entering Canada. Applications for student visas from Vietnam increased by 89% from 2015-2016.

“Our research shows that international students choose Canada because of the quality of the Canadian education system and our reputation as a safe and tolerant country,” Karen McBride, President and CEO of the education bureau, said in an online statement in March 2018 discussing Canada’s overall performance in international education.

Consulting Engagement in Vietnam

Our team was very fortunate to work with a client in the Canadian education sector.  One of the biggest challenges facing our client as well as other Canadian educational institutions has been highlighted in the media is the decline in the youth population. A report by Maclean’s Magazine anticipates that the Canadian population, aged 18-21, will decline by 10% by 2020 resulting in a fall of 2.8% in post-secondary enrollment.

With India, China and Vietnam leading the increase of international students in Canada, it was important for us to evaluate the Vietnamese market to recommend the best options. The outcome of our seven-month consulting engagement confirmed a true opportunity for our client.

Through our detailed situational, market and competition analysis we were able to understand the consumer behaviour and driving factors of students considering international studies.  Creating a journey map of the multiple touch points, we provided the client with areas to focus to improve their brand recognition.


On our arrival to Vietnam, Canadian Consul General in Vietnam, Alex Nunas, toted at our Telfer Executive MBA Opening Banquet that education is one of Canada’s largest economic cooperation with Vietnam.  In a world of political uncertainty such as the Trump administration and outcomes of Brexit, the time is right for Canada to rise as a global leader in education.  The global political situation is in our favour right now. 

Personal Development and Small Take-Aways

The international market evaluation we completed mirrors an extensive process that an organization would complete when considering market opportunities.  For us, it was a bigger accomplishment as our knowledge of the education industry was as deep as our research when pursuing our own respective degrees. Our team’s industry expertise derives from healthcare, research, defense, banking and business development.  Through this project, we now hold an expertise in both the domestic and international education sector and we will be able to see our work develop the international pipeline, increase the revenue source and expertise for an educational institution within our province.

We also have the framework and confidence to take back to our own work environments and look to pursue global markets that are important to our industries within Canada’s economy.

A few things we learned about Vietnam while working on this project is that sometimes it’s the tactical things that cause conflict or bottlenecks in the project as opposed to the overall strategy.

We were expecting Competition

We spoke with education agents and college representative offices with the objective to learn about best practices for international student recruitment in Vietnam.  We prepared for these meetings with the thought that these offices may not be forthcoming with the information given that in some cases, they are in direct competition with our client.  We were surprised to see how willing they were to share information on trends and market intelligence.  The people we met made themselves available to us and were open and gracious.  Vietnam truly is a relationship-based culture, valuing cooperation and the greater good of the education sector as a whole over the individualistic competition.

Interpreter?  Depends on the sector

We struggled with whether we should invest in an interpreter. Some of our colleagues found the use of an interpreter to be very valuable and conducive for business in Vietnam.  Our team considered the use of an interpreter as well – in the end, we took the advice of a trusted source in the industry and decided against hiring an interpreter because the English language is very prevalent in the international education sector in Vietnam.

Facebook Messenger and Grab are # 1

Coming from a nation that still heavily relies on email for business communications, it surprised us that Facebook messenger is the most popular social media platform for personal communication and businesses alike.  Setting up a meeting through email and haven’t heard back?  Follow-up with the contact via messenger.  Making a reservation at a restaurant?  Send them a Facebook message to their corporate page. 

Grab is the Uber of Vietnam having bought the share ride business from Uber earlier this year. Grab has several options including Grab scooters – something we wouldn’t find back home.  It was so easy to use Grab to get from one place to another – we used it extensively to travel to our many meetings all over the city.   It was incredible seeing the flow of traffic – scooters, bicycles and pedestrians weaving smartly through standard vehicles, a sporty sight by Canadian standards.

Overall, the week went by very quickly – as our client mentioned, it’s not unlike what Olympic athletes say after their short stay in the Olympic Village.  While we wouldn’t go as far as comparing ourselves to Olympic athletes who have worked tirelessly over their lifetime to accomplish the feat of competing at the Olympics, we no doubt experience a feeling of loss knowing that this journey has come to its end.  This feeling of loss is mixed with excitement and optimism for the opportunities to come and knowing that the network and relationships we have cultivated with our peers in the program will forever remain our trusted advisors. 


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