“I am embracing the incentive-driven recruitment with lots of gusto,” said Beatrice Balitenda, an agent at Inspirations Centre Uganda. “With the pandemic behind us, I am glad business is getting back to normal.”
The government of Western Australia has announced it will pay eligible agents AUS$1,000 per student enrolled in one of the state’s five universities, budgeting a total of $10 million for the scheme over the next year.
“The announcement of the incentives was a wonderful surprise and I believe that this will activate interest amongst education agents to promote WA university options,” said Ravi Singh, managing director of Global Reach agency.
“The incentives announced by the WA government are exactly what Western Australia needs,” agreed James McNess, director at Active Study Australia. “International students predominantly study in the larger Australian cities such as Sydney and Melbourne so this incentivisation for students and agents will certainly encourage more students to study in WA.”
Under the new scheme, agents could also earn $500 per student enrolled in a school, English language or vocational course.
But some in the vocational education and training sector are wary of incentive schemes following the failure of VET FEE HELP, a vocational education loan program introduced by the Australian government in 2012. Courses funded by the program were misleadingly sold, leaving vulnerable students enrolled in programs they were unlikely to complete and saddled with unexpected debt.
“Financial incentives alone just don’t work”
“Anytime we link financial incentives to enrolment or completion, we see rorts [scams],” said Lauren Boon-Hollows, director of Aniwaya Education Services and consultant in the VET sector. “The majority of RTOs [registered training organisations] work hard to offer a quality service, however, if you offer easy money, there will always be people and organisations that take advantage and long term it hurts Australia’s reputation.
“Financial incentives alone just don’t work and ultimately, it’s usually the students that are hurt and the VET sector reputation too.”
Stakeholders have also called on the government and institutions to focus on student support and employability. For Sachin Gupta, an India-based study abroad consultant, the incentives are welcome, but he believes that they should come hand-in-hand with additional training.
“No labour market info is shared, which could help people like me learn and promote unis [and] provinces in a realistic and tangible manner,” he said.
Boon-Hollows added, “I would focus on incentivising RTOs or other parties to provide better support services. Payment for offering and running job placement support linked to their qualification, payment for offering and running support to find accommodation.”