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Include agents in gov’t strategy, says UK sector

The UK government should recognise the role of education agents in future iterations of the country’s international education strategy, representatives from the sector told an all-party parliamentary group this week.

The APPG for international students heard about the role of agents. Photo: The PIE.

She said that Australia has “long understood” the role of agents

Asked what the parliamentary group should be saying to government, Bobby Mehta, associate pro vice-chancellor at the University of Portsmouth and BUILA chair, said the “significant contributions” by agents, counsellors and pathway providers should be recognised.

Jacqui Jenkins, global programme lead for international student mobility at the British Council, agreed that agents should be cited in the strategy and added that the priority should be on “maintaining quality first” in order to promote the UK as a study destination.

Jenkins told the group that although the British Council has experienced funding cuts, “huge amounts” of money are being invested into agents via the organisation’s new hub, which she described as a “one-stop shop” for anyone recruiting to the UK.

Launched in December, the hub allows agents to gain certification after completing training, which Jenkins described as a “badge of good practice”.

“We would like to make sure that agents and counsellors get the right information so they can provide good service to that student and, therefore, students make informed choices about the UK and we can meet their expectations,” Jenkins said.

There are approximately 10,000 agents on the platform and over 1,000 of those have been certified.

Speakers highlighted the importance of agents to the entire student journey, with students often initially relying on agents to “cut through that noise of information” about study destinations, according to Charley Robinson, head of global mobility policy at UUKi.

“The agent and counsellor role doesn’t stop at the point at which a student is enrolled”

She said agents can provide “useful insights, comparisons and objective views of the relative characteristics and merits of universities and study destinations that students can’t easily get from universities directly or from families”.

“The agent and counsellor role doesn’t just stop at the point at which a student is enrolled,” she added. Sue Edwards from Destination for Education agreed that agents are essential to help with the “practical” parts of coming to the UK and to support student transitions.

Robinson discussed how other countries are working with agents, pointing out that 75% of students are recruited to Australian institutions via agents compared to around 50% in the UK. She said that Australia has “long understood” the role of agents and cited Western Australia’s recent agent incentive scheme.

The APPG is set to launch an inquiry into the post-study work visa in the coming months.

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