Vietnam, officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. Vietnam's economic growth has been among the highest in the world since 2000, and in 2011 it had the highest Global Growth Generators Index among 11 major economies. Manufacturing, information technology and high-tech industries now form a large and fast-growing part of the national economy. Though Vietnam is a relative newcomer to the oil industry, it is currently the third-largest oil producer in Southeast Asia.
Vietnam is located in Southeast Asia on the Indochina Peninsula. In addition to a coastline on the South China Sea to the east, the country has borders with China, Laos and Cambodia. In the past two decades, Vietnam has become a rapidly developing economy and major tourist destination. Archeological evidence indicates that people have been living in Vietnam for tens of thousands of years, and the country has a very rich history and culture as a result. The country’s geography is mostly hilly and covered with tropical forests.
The climate varies considerably throughout Vietnam due to differences in latitude and elevation. Although still rainy, winter is the dryer season and runs from about November through April. Temperatures in Ho Chi Minh City in the south part of the country are relatively constant, ranging from about 21 degrees C to 28 degrees C for most of the year. However, northern areas usually see much more variation, ranging from lows of about 5 degrees C in January to highs of about 37 degrees C in August.
Vietnamese culture places a premium on family and community values. Key cultural symbols include dragons, birds, turtles and horses. Vietnamese classical music and literature are both very well developed and have roots dating back to the 13th century. Many festivals celebrating Vietnamese culture take place throughout the country, with the biggest celebrations reserved for Tet, the New Year celebration at the end of January. Soccer and martial arts are popular sports, although western sports such as badminton and tennis are also popular.
Cost of Living
The cost of living is relatively low. On-campus housing can be found for about $US 1,200 to $US 1,600 per semester; this price includes all utilities, furnishings and internet service.
Students may enter Vietnam on a tourist visa and then convert it to a student visa once they are enrolled in their course of study. Students may apply for this change at the immigration police, although in many instances the school in which they are enrolled or a travel company can help with the paperwork. Students may obtain the original tourist visa through the Vietnam consulate in their country or through a Vietnamese travel agent.
Study in Vietnam
Higher Education in Vietnam
Higher education in Vietnam has embarked on a major transformation. The “Law on Higher Education” took effect in January 2013 with the goal to reform and regulate higher education as Vietnam moves toward a knowledge-based economy. The law provides for additional investment in higher education institutions as well as allowing for autonomy regarding setting of tuition, granting of degrees, managing academic affairs and choosing accreditation. Universities may also form partnerships with industry, set up science and technology centers, earn income from science and technology investments and own the rights to inventions.
Why Study in Vietnam?
Higher education institutions in Vietnam offer a wide range of programs and some schools specialize in certain areas. For example, Ho Chi Minh City specializes in science and technology while Hanoi University specializes in language studies, but also provides programs taught in English in the areas of business, finance, accounting, international studies and information technology. In addition to gaining a master’s degree in Vietnam, students will study in a multi-cultural environment that provides an immersion into the culture of Southeast Asia. Private international schools in Vietnam have a very diverse student body and staff, bringing together different perspectives and fresh ideas from all over the world. International schools have a wide range of master’s programs, from MBAs to Engineering, all taught in English.
Vietnam has both public and private universities. Public universities operate at the national level (Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City) or at the regional level (Thai Nguyen, Hue and Da Nang). With the new education law, private institutions that operate on a non-profit basis also receive priority from the government regarding land use, taxes, capital investment and staff training. The new law also describes three types of universities: research-based, application-based and experiment-based.
Tuition and Program Duration
Yearly tuition at public schools is low, from free to about $US 1,000 for Vietnamese students. International students pay rates from about $US 1,000 to $US 2,500 per year. Private schools are somewhat expensive, with total program tuition ranging from about $US 30,000 to $US 40,000. Most master’s degrees can be completed in 1-2 years, depending upon the program and whether the student attends full time or part time.
The academic year at most schools is based on semesters and begins in early September. First semester classes conclude in early January, followed by exams and a holiday period for Tet, the Lunar New Year. Second semester runs from mid-February through late June, followed by exams. Some schools use a trimester system, which includes three 16-week semesters.
The vast majority of people working in Vietnam are employed in either agriculture or service industries (about three-fourths of workers). Manufacturing industries are on the rise, and many multi-national companies now do business in Vietnam. Major products manufactured in Vietnam include shoes, clothes, marine products, electronics, crude oil and machinery. International students wishing to pursue a job in Vietnam after obtaining their master’s degree must first receive an offer of employment. The potential employer will then arrange for the required work permit, which includes a criminal record check and a health or medical certificate. In general, the government of Vietnam allows only highly qualified international workers and expects applicants to have at least five years of experience or professional qualifications; however, most workers with master’s degrees should be able to meet this threshold.
International students will need private health insurance or insurance from their home country. Some private institutions include health services in the tuition and fees; the cost is low, typically about $US 20 per semester.
Vietnamese currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND) and currency notes have large values, such as 500,000 and 50,000. Be sure to watch for the number of zeroes!