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Two-thirds of Indian, Nepal student recruiters in sub-agent networks

Nearly two-thirds of Indian and Nepalese agents work with other recruiters to access to education providers they don’t have a partnership agreement with.
October 16 2023
2 Min Read

Nearly two-thirds of Indian and Nepalese agents work with other recruiters to access education providers they don’t have a partnership agreement with, according to a survey of over 100 agents. 

But the findings from the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India show Nepalese agents are far more likely to say they take on students referred by sub-agents than their Indian counterparts, with 84% of Nepalese agents reporting they do, compared to 47% of Indians. 

In its latest report, the agency association said these results show a “resounding need” for regulations around the use of sub-agents for student acquisitions and called for “greater clarity” from the Australian government. 

AAERI advised agents to declare partnerships with any sub-agents to universities and warned that, while they may help with lead generation, the principal agent must take responsibility for admissions processing, genuine temporary entrant assessment and the lodgement of student visas. 

It recommended that if a sub-agent’s role extends beyond lead generation, the partner should be trained by the principal agent and their details should be listed on that company’s website. 

It follows the arrest of an agent in India, accused of forging university transcripts, who acted as a franchise partner of a leading agency. The larger organisation has now cut ties with the individual in question.

With application numbers growing rapidly, almost 90% of agents also said they were “seriously concerned” about misrepresentation by potential students, including of their education, finances and English language proficiency.

“This is a concern and it can be reversed very easily,” said Nishidhar Borra, AAERI president, presenting the survey results at the Australian International Education Conference in October, linking the finding to the growth in online counselling. 

The survey found that the majority of agents work with students both online and through traditional face-to-face counselling, and that online services have boomed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and because of the increasing scale of students from the region looking to study overseas.

But there are concerns that online counselling can make it harder to judge a student’s intentions when it comes to weeding out ‘non-genuine’ applicants. Over 70% of agents felt the “first sign” of a non-genuine student was having no intention of meeting agents in-person or virtually. 

“Online counselling does not work in India”

“Online counselling does not work in India,” said Borra, advising agents to meet students face-to-face and ‘getting to know’ them. 

AAERI also suggested how institutions and governments can support agents to recruit quality students, including making in-person or virtual interviews with universities compulsory and verifying key documents via tools like Digi locker, a ‘digital wallet” overseen by the Indian government. 

They also said universities should provide more “clarity and consistency” when reviewing agent performance and agreement renewals and highlighted that reviews of agent performance should be based on the quality, not quantity, of students recruited.

Another key challenge agents highlighted was the lack of transparency in government decision-making when it comes to approving visas and “frequent changes” in immigration policy. 

The majority of agents approved of recent reforms which have restricted the ability of students to change providers upon arrival in Australia. The report suggested additional potential reforms, such as linking visas to institutions and including agent names on the Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) in PRISMS. 

They also raised concerns about an increase in so-called “fly-by-night” rogue operators, who pose as education agents and charge students upfront, often offering fraudulent academic credentials. 

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