Spotlight: Vietnam

Vietnam is the easternmost country in the Indochina Peninsula. With a population of over 90 million (rising at an annual rate of 1%), it is the world’s fourteenth most populous nation. It also has a young population: over half the population is below 30 years old, and 25% are within the 0-15 year age group.

Since doi moi (economic renovation) was announced in 1986, the country has benefited from sustained economic growth. Over the past decade, for instance, growth rates in the region of 5-10% have consistently been achieved.

In line with the political and economic reforms implemented since 1986, there has also been substantial investment in the education system. Public spending on education, as a percentage of GDP, is higher than all its regional neighbours; universal basic education has been established and the national literacy rate is 94%. Nonetheless, higher education funding has not achieved similar results, where standards are affected by low quality facilities, outdated teaching methods, and a lack of autonomy and academic freedom.


Vietnam is one of the countries showing an increase in the number of page views within the International Comparisons database. During 2011, Vietnam received 5575 views; an increase of 206, or 4% over the 2010 figures. These figures continue the trend; 2010 saw an 18% increase over the 2009 views.

Database page views 2011 5575
Database page views 2011 rank 46th
Database page views 2010 5369
Database page views 2010 rank 53rd
Member Enquiries 2011 100
Member Enquiries 2011 rank (out of 190) 36th
Member Enquiries 2010 127
Member Enquiries 2010 rank (out of 190) 20th
Individual Assessments 2011 8
Individual Assessments 2011 rank 135th
Individual Assessments 2010 9
Individual Assessments 2010 rank 128th

“We’ve had a close look at where Vietnamese member enquiries are coming from and the results have highlighted that organisations from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK are all interested in Vietnam,” stated Tim Buttress, Deputy Director Policy and Communication at UK NARIC. “For instance, we normally see only around 2% of our enquiries from Australia, but this jumps to 13% if we look at questions about Vietnam.”

This broadly supports figures from UCAS, which show that applications from Vietnam increased 15.9% for entry 2011.

Education in Vietnam

All levels of education in Vietnam are the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), apart from vocational and technical education, which comes under the auspices of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) – established by Prime Ministerial order in March 1998. The only exceptions are the medical universities, managed by the Ministry of Health, and military and security institutions, which are the responsibility of the Ministry of National Defence and Ministry of Public Security respectively.

In the higher education sector, there is an acknowledged lack of capacity. Between 1998 and 2008, 198 new universities / colleges were opened but, with only 400 higher education institutions, only 25% of secondary school graduates get to progress onto the national higher education providers. In 2010 for instance, there were 1.2 million graduates of secondary schools, but only places for 300,000 within the higher education sector. Therefore, with greater levels of disposable income, more parents are able to fund studies at either private higher education providers or international universities. Reasons for choice of international over domestic degree programmes include:

Ref MITC (

Whilst competition to enter public higher education institutions is fierce, the very best students prefer to attend private institutions like the Foreign Trade University, National Economics University, Banking Academy or Medical University, because of increased employability.

In the last few years, the Government has launched new university initiatives with international partners to seek to build world-class institutions. In 2008, the Vietnamese German University (VGU) opened in Ho Chi Minh City. A French-backed technology school is opening in Hanoi and the Australian institution, RMIT, has opened an international campus in the country.

Recent Educational Developments

In 2010, a new Government initiative was launched to introduce English lessons for all 3rd grade students, as a means of supporting continued economic development. Four English sessions are envisaged per week; however, implementation of the policy may be hindered by a lack of English language teachers.

Official language(s) Vietnamese
Other language(s) English (increasingly favoured as a second language), some French, Chinese, and Khmer, mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)
Population 91,519,289
Population date Jul-12
Population (world ranking) 14
GDP (purchasing power parity) $ 299,000,000,000
GDP (purchasing power parity) date 2011
GDP (world ranking) 43
Compulsory education nine years (ages 6 – 14)
Academic year Commonly September – May at school level, and September – June at higher education level.
Education laws Universal Primary Education Law 1991; Education Law 1998; Education Law 2005.
Outgoing students
Total (foreign students) 44,038 (2009)
Percentage of world total 1.3% (2009)
Top Destinations USA (12,612), Australia (7,648), France (5,803), Russian Fed. (3,518), Japan (2,895) – 2009

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