The company is also encouraging colleagues from across the sector to report agents who are suspected of malpractice through a nomination form.
The ApplyBoard website states it now works with over 10,000 recruitment partners in an “approved recruiter network” allowing institutions to significantly expand their global reach through trusted agents.
The promise of increased access to “more schools, perks and faster commissions” attracts many small- to medium-sized agent enterprises around the world to work with the platform rather than secure institutional contracts directly.
However, in a bold move to improve transparency in the sector, the company has decided to highlight not only the good agents, but also the bad.
A new page on the website states it is “essential to ensure trust and transparency in the international education sector. That’s why we share our list of blocked recruitment partners.”
“We would encourage institutions to publish their blocklists and all their partner names, if possible”
The site lists agents personally by name, along with company name, country of operation and website if applicable. There are currently 45 names publicly listed.
Included in the blocklist is Brijesh Mishra from agency emsa, who was arrested in Canada after allegedly scamming over 700 students by giving them fake admissions letters.
Originally the website stated that “the [blocklist] list includes all former recruitment partners who are no longer part of our network. Applyboard has fully removed their access to the platform.”
However ApplyBoard have since amended the website and clarified to The PIE saying “our published blocklist is made up of agents and agencies who may or may not have worked with ApplyBoard.
“Brijesh Mishra, nor any agency he worked with, was ever part of the ApplyBoard platform.”
Stakeholders in the industry have called for further clarity about how the list has been formed and the right of reply. There is obvious reputational damage to being publicly named as untrustworthy.
A nomination form added to the ApplyBoard website states “we welcome our partner institutions to submit any recruitment partners and/or international student agents that they have determined they do not wish to work with”.
However the form requires the ‘requestor’ to leave their own details removing the option to report in anonymity. This could deter industry whistleblowers who want to raise the alarm but fear repercussions.
Reasons to report are listed ranging from threatening behaviour of agents though to submission of fake documents or impersonating applicants at interview.
Speaking to The PIE, Meti Basiri, founder of ApplyBoard explained “when it comes to the source of an entry and the reporter’s identity, we take thorough measures to ensure accuracy.
“We collaborate with numerous colleges and universities who regularly report to us. In addition, our dedicated compliance team meticulously verifies the information against our internal data. We strongly believe in fostering unity within the sector. We encourage transparency from every individual and organisation.”
In Australia, higher education institutions are required to publicly state the recruitment agents they work with, whereas in the UK and other parts of the world this is not compulsory.
Quoted in The BIG Issue recently, agent expert Vincenzo Raimo, said “there’s no regulation about agents in reality.
“If I’m hypothetically running a rogue agency in Ahmedabad in India, and you come to me and I rip you off, how are you going to take advantage of the consumer protection laws in the UK?”
The terms and conditions of using ApplyBoard, a Canadian company with registered subsidiary companies in the UK and India, states that “all recruitment partners that work with ApplyBoard are required to sign and abide by a contract containing stringent terms and conditions that are carefully drafted by ApplyBoard.
“These terms are aligned to global codes of conduct and ethical standards, ensuring accountability to protect students and the reputation of all our partner institutions.”
The company outlines a comprehensive review and warning process where a recruitment partner is suspected to have breached their contractual obligations.
“Any measure that aims to improve transparency in the education agent recruitment space is to be welcomed”
The blocklist however does not specify why agents have been blocked or if they ever had access in the first place.
“We would encourage institutions to publish their blocklists and all their partner names, if possible,” explained Basiri.
“It seems that expectations for transparency are often limited to technology platforms. Through our research, we’ve discovered that over 75% of recruitment partners working with major institutions are B2B, and their transparency levels are often quite low.”
A spokesperson from AgentBee, a company that offers agent due diligence solutions for institutions and has been monitoring agent arrests reported in the global press, said “any measure that aims to improve transparency in the education agent recruitment space is to be welcomed”.
“Institutions working with aggregators and benefiting from the scale and reach that they provide, have a responsibility to hold them to account on the integrity of their sub-agent networks rather than taking assurances at face value.”