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China to launch “year round” student fair

In a move that could shake the agent sector, China is to launch a “permanent” student fair in Shanghai where overseas institutions can recruit Chinese students directly all year round. The International Education Exchange Centre, which is endorsed by the Chinese Ministry of Education, will be spread across two conjoined 24-story buildings and host 800-1,000 foreign schools, colleges and universities.

The IEEC centre will cover two conjoined 24-storey towers offering 112,400 sq m of exhibition space

The Centre will be spread across two 24-story buildings and host 800-1,000 schools

It promises exposure to 500,000 students a year roughly for the price of attending a single student fair in China.

“A lot of foreign schools have agencies who work in China, but every agency has very limited choice for the students,” Sarah Jiang, deputy general manager of IEEC, told The PIE News.

“We are not an agency, we are trying to build a platform for foreign colleges and universities overseas. Students will have more chances to get to know foreign colleges and universities and that will help them make the right decision.”

The fair, which opens next July, offers exhibitors a variety of office space options and the use of conference space. A year in a combined office – shared between 12-16 institutions each with 20 sq m of exhibition space – costs around $6,500, according to the company’s brochure.

Institutions will be able to directly enrol students, said Jiang, although in an email to The PIE News the University of Nottingham said this would not appeal. “We’re not selling Mars bars on a stall – we’re talking about serious decisions which have a lifelong impact so the idea of a permanent stall taking in applications really goes against some basic principles for us,” said Vincenzo Raimo, director of the international office.

“We are not going to cut out agencies, and we are not going to act as an agency, but this is a choice for the student”

Jiang also denied the venture was anti agent.“We are not going to cut out agencies, and we are not going to act as an agency, but this is a choice for the student themselves. Some students would rather pay somebody for convenience but if some of the students want to do DIY, to apply and contact schools, they can come to us.”

Sherwin E, vice president of China’s largest agency association, BOSSA, said he welcomed the idea as long as IEEC didn’t take commission on enrolments.

“I personally feel that this will only help our agents in improving the scope and quality of their service rather than putting them out of business, as most students will have to rely on agents due to lack of time and ability,” he said.

Jiang said IEEC had established contracts with some universities and was in negotiation with others from Singapore and the US, but would not disclose names.

She added the centre sought other service providers offering language testing, advice on visas and advice on marketing in China. It will also launch a website where students can get information after visiting the showroom.

“Many students and their parents want to see the schools in person, and that makes them feel more secure about their decision,” she said.

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