In a report released by HSBC in 2017, spending on education accounted for 47 percent of total household expenditure in Vietnam, underlining the importance that Vietnamese parents place on their child’s education. The same report tells us that with as many as 130,000 students studying abroad across all levels, Vietnam is amongst the fastest growing countries to send students abroad.
As demand for higher education grows in Vietnam, the infrastructure for more specialized study hasn’t kept up. Even as demand for a skilled workforce increases, particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), tracks for specialized study such as international-standard education for medicine are still not readily available in Vietnam.
We meet with St. George’s University’s (SGU) Asia recruitment manager Ben Donnelly to learn more about why SGU, one of the global premier choices for medical schools, is looking to bridge the gap by providing an international standard medical education with a US and UK system wide recognized medical degree that is accredited by the World Federation of Medical Education (WFME), the US Department of Education, as well as the CAAM-HP. With over 1000 new students studying medicine at SGU each year, and 100 of them coming from Asia, Vietnam has become a focus destination for SGU’s recruitment team.
What’s your role at SGU and why is SGU here in Asia?
I’m the Asia Recruitment Manager for SGU. My main region is Southeast Asia, but I also help where needed across Asia. I’ve been living overseas for the past 19 years, the last six of which have been in Vietnam. A previous job brought me here and I liked it so much I decided to stay. My past work took me to Istanbul, Turkey and Manila, Philippines and now here. I’ve always worked in recruitment and education and the challenge at SGU now is a new, fresh one for me as I’ve worked with UK boarding schools before that. There’s a fast growing higher education need in Asia, especially for medicine.
What are some of SGU’s goals in the next few years as an international university?
We aim to increase awareness of SGU across Asia and grow the number of international students studying at our institution. Vietnam is one of the fastest growing markets for us in Asia. We know that Vietnamese families place a large importance on education. That’s why we’re here.
Can you share with us the backgrounds of some of your students and faculty that come from Asia and Vietnam? What attracted them to SGU?
Our students usually come from either international schools across the region or are overseas completing an undergrad degree. The Vietnamese students at SGU tend to already be in the US when they apply to us. The fact that our students can complete their clinical training in the US or UK, and eventually practice medicine in those countries is definitely the biggest attraction. With US medical schools accepting such low numbers of international students, SGU’s value proposition to study an US-modelled medical degree with an option to complete training and eventually work in the US is an attractive value proposition for our students.
What efforts is SGU making throughout Asia and globally to recruit more students?
We host regular information sessions across Asia which often have academics and doctors from SGU sharing about pathways to the medical profession in the US, such as the two events we are holding in HCMC and in Hanoi later this month. We also visit international schools and attend education fairs to meet students and families. As it stands, we accept 1,000 new students each year and roughly 20% of them are international, with the largest segment coming from Asia.
Our efforts to recruit globally have also recently been boosted by our financial need scholarships. We offer them selectively to students who can demonstrate need and many of the award grants we offer help to support them over their years of study at SGU.
What makes SGU stand out in the global medical school environment?
We offer clinical training in the US or UK, and our USMLE results are consistently high. SGU has a proven track record of getting international students residencies to the US and UK medical profession.
There are a number of destinations globally that also offer medical school training, such as Eastern Europe and Portugal for example. However, they don’t offer US clinical training. During my time working in Taiwan for example, there were a number of students that would go to study in destinations such as Hungary and the Czech Republic. However, it would be necessary for them to learn the local language to finish clinical training, making integration into daily life there more challenging. At SGU, as we’re a university that directly links up with the US and the UK, it’s a much smoother transition for many students. Often, the reaction we get from students who are discovering this is of positive surprise.