Vietnam leads Southeast Asia in sending students abroad: report

By Thanh Hang   February 17, 2024 | 10:33 pm PT
Vietnam leads Southeast Asia in sending students abroad: report
Vietnamese students in the U.S., Feb. 10, 2024. Photo by Le Thuy Duong
Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia in that order top the list of Southeast Asian countries with students abroad.

The 2024 Key Trends in Southeast Asia report by Acumen, an international education consultant, showed that more than 350,000 students from Southeast Asia were studying abroad in 2022, making it the third largest region globally for outbound student mobility after China and India.

Within the region, Vietnam had by far the largest number of outbound students, 132,000, followed by Indonesia and Malaysia with 56,000 each and Thailand with 32,000.

The top two destinations for Vietnamese students were Japan with over 44,100 and South Korea with nearly 25,000, the report, which used data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said.

Students from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand mostly chose the U.K. and Australia.

In the U.S. too, Vietnamese students led Southeast Asia at over 23,100.

Other top countries for Vietnamese studying abroad were Australia (14,100) and Canada (9,000).

China is not listed in the UNESCO data but is also a top destination for Southeast Asian students.

The Chinese government has not released international student data after 2019, when the country received 28,600 students from Thailand, 15,000 from Indonesia, 11,300 from Vietnam, and 9,500 from Malaysia.

Acumen's report shows western countries face more competition from Japan, South Korea and China in attracting Southeast Asian students.

Japan’s goal is to increase its international enrollment to 400,000 by 2027, and South Korea's is 300,000, and both East Asian powerhouses promise more job opportunities for foreign graduates.

Asian destinations are usually cheaper for Southeast Asians due to geographical proximity even as more and more universities in East Asia are being ranked among the global elite.

In the 2024 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, there are 33 Asian universities in the top 200, five more than last year.

ICEF Monitor, an international education information site, said Vietnam is among the top 10 countries in terms of student mobility.

Vietnamese rank among the top five international students in the U.S., top two in Japan, top six in Australia, and top in Taiwan, it said.

There are many reasons why Vietnam has become a "hotspot" for recruitment by global education institutions, it said, pointing out that more than a quarter (28%) of Vietnam's population is aged between 16 and 30, its university enrollment rate has increased from 10% in 2001 to 29%, and education is a top concern for families.

According to a 2018 HSBC survey, spending on education accounted for 47% of total household expenditure.

Its middle class is the fastest-growing in Southeast Asia, meaning more families could afford to send their children abroad to study, the bank said.

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