Purpose – This paper aims to provide an overall picture of Vietnamese international student mobility which remains silent in Vietnamese international education and migration research.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper traces the evolvement of Vietnamese student outflows in a historical approach by analyzing official documents published by governmental agencies, public media and international education and migration literatures.
Findings – While the early Vietnamese student movements from the early 20th century to the 1986 Open Door period were mostly shaped by political purposes, the current trend is influenced by social and political transformations in Vietnam and host countries and by changes in the practices of higher education internationalization policies in host countries. It also argues that the present movement of Vietnamese students, which is seen as the government's strategic approach to improve the quality of the existing workforce for their industrialization process by 2020, becomes politicized as human capital is recognized as the focal force for the country's development and global integration.
Originality/value – By analyzing the factors behind Vietnamese international student mobility, the paper hopes to contribute an understanding of the international student movements and professional migration in Vietnam which are still under-researched.