Purpose: the purpose of this paper is to examine the impacts of instructor capability and learning motivation on learning performance of business students in vietnam. It also explores the moderating effect of personal development competitiveness on the roles of instructor capability in both learning motivation and learning performance. Design/methodology/approach: two phases of study were undertaken. A pilot phase was used to preliminary assess the measures and a main survey with a sample of 1,278 undergraduate business students was conducted to validate the measures and to test the models. Findings: instructor capability was found to have a positive impact on learning motivation and, subsequently, on learning performance. The results further show that the impacts of instructor capability on both learning motivation and learning performance are greater in the group of students which has a higher level of personal development competitiveness. Research limitations/implications: a key limitation of this study is the examination of the roles of instructor capability and learning motivation in learning performance. There can be several other antecedents of learning performance of business students. Practical implications: the results of this study suggest that university administrators should design suitable recruitment and training policies in order to have instructors with appropriate knowledge and teaching skills. Also, students’ personal development competitiveness in learning should be encouraged. Originality/value: the findings enhance one’s understanding of key antecedents of learning performance, as well as the moderating role of personal development competitiveness in the learning of business students in a transition market, vietnam. Emerald group publishing limited.