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How the coronavirus is impacting Vietnamese students planning to study abroad

Should I Stay or Should I Go?


Should I stay or should I go now?

Should I stay or should I go now?

If I go, there will be trouble

And if I stay it will be double


(The Clash, “Should I Stay or Should I Go”, 1982)


Life in The Bubble


Life has returned to a strange sort of normal for us in Ho Chi Minh City in recent weeks. The traffic is back, there is bustle on the streets, and schools and restaurants have re-opened. People are even shaking hands again (which feels odd, at least to me). We talk to friends and colleagues around the world who can’t quite believe the ‘freedoms’ we currently enjoy.

Vietnam’s great job of managing the coronavirus is increasingly recognised internationally. As of early June, Vietnam has recorded around 325 cases, and no deaths - remarkable for a country of almost 100 million people, that has a long land border with China.


I say it’s a strange sort of normal because there at one level we understand that things haven’t returned to normal: we live in a ‘bubble’ where travel in and out of the country is severely restricted (and virtually impossible for foreigners currently). Many shops here in downtown Ho Chi Minh City have closed down as they catered to foreign tourists who are no longer here. Most of us still wear masks outdoors, and have been trained to wash our hands obsessively.



So how is all of this impacting Vietnamese students, who dream of studying abroad?


Defer, Study Online or Change Plans?


Part A: What do the students think?

LightPath has recently completed a survey of over 100 Year 12 students graduating from five international schools in Ho Chi Minh City. Our goal was to better understand the impact of the coronavirus on their study plans, and to check for any observable differences with the international survey recently conducted by IDP Connect.


Our key observations from this survey were as follows:

  1. Overseas study plans are being significantly impacted by the current pandemic. 33% of students surveyed were unsure whether they would proceed with their study as planned, while 11% indicated they would no longer proceed with their original study plans .

  2. Some students (9%) were considering different destinations from that originally planned.

  3. Quality of education (50%) remains the most important factor in terms of selecting study destination, followed by health and safety (21%).

  4. A higher percentage of students (38%) were willing to commence their studies online.

Please click here to download the infographic summarising our findings.


Part B: What do the parents think?

Agent feedback, discussions with parents and feedback from virtual fairs suggests that many parents are not yet ready to make key decisions around application and enrolment for their children. And given ongoing uncertainty many are reluctant to put down money, as they do not know what kind of learning their child might get (online is viewed as inferior), and they do not know when that learning might be available.


Many parents are worried about health and safety:

“My daughter has been accepted for an Australian University. However, because of Covid-19, I’m planning to let her stay home another year because health is more important”

(Ms Vu Thuy, quoted in Giaoducthoidai, 19 May 2020)


For others, everything is just too uncertain at the moment:

“I’m very worried because the delay in Vietnamese high school graduation will affect my child’s admission. With the unstable situation in European and America, who knows when everything will go back to normal. If the country is not completely safe, I won’t let my child go to the US in August. I’d rather postpone a year until everything is better.”

(Ms Ha Phuong, quoted in Dan Tri, 19 April 2020).


A proportion of parents will also decide to keep their children close, and explore the various international options now available in Vietnam. International providers such as RMIT, British University Vietnam, and Swinburne Vietnam are expecting an increase in interest as a result.

Others will see online study as an acceptable short term solution, until it is possible for students to transition to offline learning.



What Next?


Many international education providers will currently be focused on keeping their existing student enrolments ‘sticky’. Beyond that, the focus is on recruitment of new students for the final quarter of 2020 and into 2021, on the expectation that some cross-border travel will again be possible.


LightPath’s new services of digital marketing, in-market execution support, and student support can assist providers with these shorter term goals.

But given the factors highlighted above, we assess that blended/online and in-market delivery will be increasingly important elements of a longer-term risk management strategy. LightPath can also support providers who wish to explore this further, through our market entry services.

We will be publishing more insights on attitudes to online learning in our next blog.


Stay Safe and Well!



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