Global Expansion – Barriers to Diversifying International Programs

Cambridge Network and its member schools focus on the diversification of their student body as a top priority, in both domestic and international terms. Globalization is all around us and thanks to rapid advances in technology, commerce, and the free exchange of ideas our world is becoming ever more interconnected. As a result, schools are finding it necessary to embrace these changes by showing their school community how they are preparing their enrollees for this diverse, new landscape. Furthermore, higher education has always been a beacon for global thinkers, and international exchange propels students to begin considering environments beyond their communities.

The course of global events has and will continue to influence the ability of students to move freely between countries and continents in pursuit of learning. After World War II, many trans-Atlantic ships were sending supplies and reconstruction materials. Some organizations took advantage of this new trade route by organizing student exchanges. Following The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the number of Japanese permanent residents in the U.S. noticeably jumped thanks to university students, visiting scholars, and business leaders seeking economic and academic exchange. China was next in line, following massive reforms and opening-up policies initiated by the then Chinese Chairman Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s.

Wherever the next big wave comes from, U.S. high schools interested in diversifying their student body need to plan accordingly. Being able to highlight your success in global expansion can also advance a program’s prestige on the domestic front. More than ever, schools who can highlight their dedication to international participation and success will stand out from the pack. To be well-known in one country is a success in itself; to be renowned on various continents is a dream.

The Cambridge Network has recently seen double-digit growth in Vietnam, and we anticipate more in the following years. Right now is an exciting time for the country thanks to several macroeconomic trends highlighted in the following:

Rising Middle Class

According to Boston Consulting Group, the rising middle class is starting to receive attention from global companies and brands looking to expand their markets. From 2012 through 2020, this stratum of the population is expected to experience 12.9% annual growth. Though the dollar amounts are modest compared to Western standards, you can see why some of the world’s biggest companies like Starbucks, McDonald’s, H&M, and many others are getting ready to set up shop.

Economic Growth

Economic development is happening at an impressive speed bumping this country into one of the world’s top performers. Trading Economics says that over the past sixteen years, Vietnam has an average of 6.16% growth thanks for a variety of favorable exports, energy reserves, and promises to grow a skilled workforce further. The country is scrambling to make improvements, most notably in telecom, energy, and mechanical engineering; all of which have already received investments from global companies in the hundreds of millions of USD. Thanks to this economic sway, Vietnam’s voice within the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) is well received and has raised its international profile overall.

Vietnamese Integration

The Vietnamese represent one of the largest immigrant groups in the US. Communities with strong Vietnamese presence are found all over the country. With the most significant populations in California, Texas, and Washington D.C. Family members of prospective students already living in your area can become your biggest cheerleader if they have been comfortably integrated into your community, especially since cost-sensitive consumers would likely live with their family member and save on room and board.

There are a variety of other factors to consider while planning for this kind of expansion within an international program. Without proper planning, the excitement of a program’s launch will quickly sour as unanticipated challenges surface. Before getting started, administrators need to understand each market’s pricing strategy. Setting the same prices for a developed country and a developing country doesn’t make sense because the economic parity can be dramatically different. Even if you are targeting the top 10% of earners, the comparison may be unbalanced.

Two other considerations that differ by the market will be how a school supports a student and their housing arrangements. Some students will need specific forms of support based on their educational-style. For example, students from China are exceptionally gifted in mathematics but will generally have a hard time in the humanities, such as critical analysis or interpretation. Allocating the necessary resources ahead of time can help you prepare for student challenges that are likely to come up. Flexibility in housing should be assessed; cultures have a preference that can be a determining factor between an enrollment or not. Boarding or homestay aside, allowing a student to opt-out is worthwhile for two reasons: some families prefer their student to live with a family member of the same culture (even if it can deter language learning) and costs can be reduced.

In short, diversifying one’s international program does not happen overnight. It’s a tedious process that requires flexibility, time, and patience to obtain the desired outcomes. However, Vietnam and also Korea are immerging markets to keep your eye on, and if interested in recruiting in these regions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Cambridge team.

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