Aspirations of Vietnamese overseas-trained graduates in their homeland

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Internationalisation of Vietnamese Higher Education, 2018, pp. 177 - 199
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This chapter sets out to examine the nature of Vietnamese international graduates’ aspirations to contribute to socio-economic development in Vietnam. My aim is to analyse the impact of international education in shaping Vietnamese international graduates’ conception and development of aspirations for themselves and their local communities. The chapter draws on results of a survey with 280 participants and 48 follow-up interviews conducted with overseas-educated Vietnamese academics and professional workers in four major cities of Vietnam. The conceptual framework that guides the analysis is Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of habitus, field and forms of capital. The findings reveal that at the national level (macro), participants’ main aspiration is to acquire jobs and career advancement for personal economic returns rather than promoting Vietnam’s social development. At the institutional level (meso), participants aspire to work in transnational corporations (TNCs) or foreign associated enterprises (FAEs) including foreign owned universities as these employers offer high remunerations and work conditions that utilise their overseas-acquired skills, particularly soft managerial skills and English language skills. At the individuals’ level (micro), their aspiration is to transfer discipline-specific knowledge acquired from “the West”, teaching and learning practices, and professional work practices that are steeped in Western organisational culture. These aspirations reflect interrelated dynamics cross all three levels that emphasise participants’ intention of taking vantage positions of their Western-acquired skills and work attitudes to convert to economic capital and cultural capital by working in foreign institutions. Despite this apparent Western “mental colonisation”, many perceive their contribution to social development through work activities where they help to improve technological, professional and ethical standards of Vietnamese business and educational environment. Insights into aspirations of overseas- educated Vietnamese professional and intellectual workers highlight the importance of examining the impact of international education for production and development of knowledge and skills in the local contexts of developing nations.
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