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University brands in the student’s eyes: Experience from Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City Vũ Thị Phương Anh Center for Educational Testing.

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Presentation on theme: "University brands in the student’s eyes: Experience from Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City Vũ Thị Phương Anh Center for Educational Testing."— Presentation transcript:

1 University brands in the student’s eyes: Experience from Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City Vũ Thị Phương Anh Center for Educational Testing and Quality Assessment Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY HO CHI MINH CITY

2 Contents 1. A tentative explanation of the current lack of attention to university brands in Vietnam 2. VNU-HCM’s brand image in the eyes of its students: findings from a survey 3. Reflections on the findings, and concluding remark

3 1.A tentative explanation of the current lack of attention to brand building in the country Brand building is part of the daily activities of university leaders and managers around the world. Universities around the world are currently involved in a “brand race”, the reason for which has been succinctly summarized in the following words taken from a Masters’ thesis submitted to Ottawa University in 2008: Universities worldwide have invested heavily in communication activities in recent years to create a desired image (i.e. brand in the mind of their communities). […] [S]uch an investment in a strong reputation allows a school to entice the best recruits and faculty, enjoy lower staff turnover, charge higher tuition fees and experience fewer crises (p. 11)

4 But not in Vietnam! Vietnamese universities seem to be completely ‘immune’ from the ‘brand disease’. The word ‘brand’ is even avoided in some circles (remember yesterday’s discussion!).  Does that mean that universities in Vietnam do not HAVE brands, or do not NEED them? Yes, why do we need one, to think of it? We have been operating like this for years, and nothing has ever happened to us!

5 Is there a reason underlying the total lack of information from Vietnamese universities in this ‘brand discussion’? I believe there are 2 reasons: 1.The prevalent view of higher education as a public good which has to be subsidized by the government. 2. The total lack of competition as demand far exceeds supply. Statistics from this year’s university entrance exam will drive this point home. Of the 1.6 million candidates who sit for the exam, fewer than 300,000 will have a place in a HE institution (see note).

6 Two counter-arguments: First, even those who believe that higher education is a public good still support the idea of the individual student must pay to share part of the cost of his or her education with the government. And if higher education is operating on a “user pays” basis, then universities must compete for a place in the students’ mind and heart, which means they must have strong brands.

7 Secondly, even though the number of places in universities are not enough for all who wants to have a place, the number of applications from excellent Vietnamese students to Vietnamese universities which are traditionally viewed as prestigious is actually decreasing while the reverse is true for foreign universities with reputation. This is one of the true indicators of the strength (actually the lack of it) of Vietnamese universities’ brands (if they do have a brand!). This also explains the success of the first foreign university in operation in Vietnam in the past decade, RMIT, where brand building has always been considered an important task

8 2. VNU-HCM’s brand image in the eyes of its students: findings from a brand perception survey 2.1. VNU-HCM: a brief introduction Designed to be a flagship university in Vietnam and chosen by MOET to be one of the two Vietnamese university systems representing Vietnam’s HE system in the ASEAN University Network [1], VNU-HCM has been conscious of the need to build a strong reputation (ie, brand) ever since the beginning of its existence in 1995, even though the term “brand” had not been used until recently (and even now is still avoided by some).[1]

9 National universities are a special model in Vietnam’s HE system where there are two levels of administration – the member universities, which are full universities in their own right, and an umbrella structure on top, similar in a sense to university systems in the US such as UC, USC, or UT.  National universities are designed to be different from other VIetnamese universities: more autonomy, better quality, positioned to compete with other HE institutions in the region (and hopefully in the world later!)

10 VNU-HCM started by merging the best of the existing mono-disciplinary “universities” located in Ho Chi Minh City at the time, with an aim to create a multi- disciplinary university system for the South. In joining the system the member universities (as we call them) still retain their values and characteristics, but a new identity has also been emerging for the whole system. The goal of this system is to create synergy from the strengths of existing universities: the variety of disciplines and areas of studies, the diversity of traditions and characteristics, the combined resources and reputation, so that the total value of the whole system is bigger than the sum of its componential values.

11 Two principles guiding the leadership of VNU-HCM in all their decisions: (1) respect for the diversity and autonomy of ít members; (2) develop a unified image for the whole system, or in other words, create a university system with a difference so that its member universities will be immediately distinguished from universities outside the system.

12 2.2. VNU-HCM’s brand image in the eyes of its students: findings from a survey Even though all the efforts for developing VNU-HCM since its birth The need to understand its brand equity and to develop a brand strategy has only been felt recently at VNU-HCM, probably since the beginning of the term 2007-2012. With this newly awakened awareness of the importance of brands came this question: “Does a brand image exist for the whole system in the students’ eyes, and if yes, then what does it look like?” This one question guided our study, which is in the form of an informal survey of approximately 100 students from its five member universities [1]. Following is a brief report of the results of the survey.

13 Brief description of the survey: goals, sampling, participants, and instrument Goals: exploring VNU-HCM brand image through perception in students’ mind (students include those who are currently enrolled in VNU-HCM programs as well as alumni) Sampling: non-random (a combination of convenience and quota sampling). Sample size: 100, with quotas of 20 for each member universities. Because of the limitations of the sampling method, the results of the study cannot be definite and will be treated as exploratory in nature. Instrument: a simple questionnaire of 8 questions, with 5 closed- ended questions (questions 1 to 5) and 3 open-ended questions (6 to 8). The questions are intended to explore VNU-HCM’s brand image on these two aspects: (1) brand awareness (questions 1, 2, 5) and perception of the brand promise, and brand loyalty (questions 3, 4, 6, 7, 8). 1.pdf

14 Findings from the survey 1.Brand awareness: Question 1: Knowledge of VNU-HCM’s members Question 2: Source of information about VNU-HCM Question 5: Students’ use of VNU-HCM shared resources (VNU-HCM Central Library and VNU- HCM Dormitory)

15 Findings for this aspect of the survey: Students studying in Thu Duc where VNU-HCM central administration is located, and where most of the shared resources are concentrated, have better knowledge of other member universities. 2. Information about VNU-HCM is gained mainly through the media, and MOET official information about the country’s HE system. 3. Students whose home institutions are located in Linh Trung use VNU-HCM’s shared resources much more frequently than others.  VNU-HCM’s brand awareness in students is influenced by (a) the strength of the home institution’s tradition/identity, and (b) the ability/opportunity to recognize the added value that the system brings to the home institution.

16 2. Brand promise, brand loyalty, and brand associations: Question 3: Perception of the existence of positive differences between VNU-HCM’s members and other universities Question 4: Feeling of pride for being a student of VNU-HCM or of the home institution (Questions 6 to 8 are open-ended): Question 6: The best impression that students have about VNU-HCM Question 7: What students are not happy with about VNU-HCM Question 8: Other comments

17 Findings for this aspect of the survey: Again, good perceptions about VNU-HCM’s brand depend on the strength of the home institution’s tradition/identity and its location (whether in Linh Trung, Thu Duc or downtown, with students studying in Thu Duc having better perceptions of VNU-HCM’s brand than other member universities). VNU-HCM’s brand brings associations/expectations (either fully met or not so) about high quality, a high degree of internationalization, good learning environment, prestige, sharing of resources between member universities, opportunities for building friendships and networking with other students from different disciplines.

18 Reflections: 1.Things have changed: academics may think that it is not necessary for HE to talk about brands, but students are clearly looking for a brand when they make a choice about which HE institution to join. 2.Branding is absolutely necessary in HE because it’s not jusst about advertising so that more people come and buy your service; it’s about being fair to your stakeholders by making your promise known to the world and keep it. It’s also about being transparent, and this transparency is needed internally first of all so that the whole institution acts consistently to keep the promise that has been made (charity begins at home!).

19 3. A student is not just a customer; he or she is also like your life mate or at least a team member for 4 years. University brands should be built from inner strengths; but without communicating your identity, personality, and mission clearly to your students, then how can you attract the most suitable persons (and enough of them) to come and live the same promise that you make to the world?

20 Concluding remark: In this increasing trend of internationalization of higher education, brands are crucial to the success of a university. It is high time Vietnamese universities start building and developing their brands so as not to lose the game right on their own playfield!

21 A Brand Leadership Strategy Make a promise that matters Communicate your promise Live your promise Strengthen your promise

22 Thank you and see you again at VNU-HCM! Come see – and live our promise! VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY HO CHI MINH CITY

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