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Agents: direct bookings harm student outcomes

An increase in students directly booking courses with education providers online will result in a dip in student satisfaction, agencies attending the EuroAsia Workshop in Turkey have said.

Agents from a number of countries joined the panel at the EuroAsia Workshop in Turkey. Photo: YEDAB

"Visa issues persist as an example of expertise that students will miss out on via direct bookings"

With digital transitions making traction across the industry, agencies are concerned that online applications at higher education level and direct bookings will threaten their businesses.

“Problems should be tackled by agencies and schools together”

Academic director at Aktif Education Abroad Agency, Burak Yilmaz, noted that students will miss out on expert advice that agencies can offer.

“[Direct bookings] should aim to increase the numbers, not to substitute agencies with artificial intelligence,” he said.

“Students look to [get] advice from agents including which school or programs to choose and of course the visa process.

“To be honest, none of the educational institutions have enough know-how, personnel or the infrastructure to handle all these personal relationships.”

He added that by taking both sides’ well-being into consideration, “in the long run, that would present as the most profitable and sustainable way”.

Speaking with The PIE News, YEDAB president and chairman of the board Osman Yilmaz emphasised the importance of agencies in the sector.

“As agencies, we not only promote the schools’ physical advantages but also counsel the students… [and]  present the best options of education for [students].”

Schools selling their own courses online directly would create “an obstacle” for students trying to get a better education, Yilmaz suggested.

Visa issues persist as an example of expertise that students will miss out on via direct bookings, according to the YEDAB president.

“[Visa issues] interrupt universal education,” he said.

In the last six months, Turkish education agencies have reported difficulties in obtaining visas for the UK, Yilmaz reminded workshop delegates.

“However some schools [have been worried] about losing their market areas and offer agencies… special promotions.”

Other points noted at the session highlighted commission rates and payments, and the negative impact of geopolitical issues on visa processes.

Restrictions on immigration, visa issues and changes in work permits increasingly put the industry in a difficult situation, agents said.

“Agency commissions shouldn’t be evaluated as costs but as a profitable investment to their own business,” Yilmaz at Aktif noted, adding that “problems should be tackled by agencies and schools together”.

Other agents speaking on the panel at the EuroAsia Workshop included Shireen Abu Nasra of Regent Education Consultants and Services, United Arab Emirates, Otto Laszlo Nagy of IHH, Hungary, Ali Anbori of International Consultants, Iraq, and Chayarnithsarr Khanijor of TIECA, Thailand.

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3 Responses to Agents: direct bookings harm student outcomes

  1. Broadly I agree with the principle of this, but the reason schools are increasingly targeting students direct is because the agents are demanding unrealistic levels of commission.
    When commissions were affordable, clients could rely on agents to select the most appropriate school for their needs; nowadays many suitable schools will not be chosen simply because the commissions they are willing or able to pay are too low. So the client thinks they are getting impartial advice but often this is not the case – they are being directed to the school paying the highest commission provided that they are still ‘good enough’.
    There are still some agents who will take a level of commission that is affordable for both school and agency, but these agencies are now in the minority. So for the schools it is a fight for survival – what choice do they have if they can’t afford the commissions?

  2. Absolute rubbish. Over 70% of our students come to us directly. We experience minimal visa rejections and provide a fantastic service.

    Most agents send students to the most expensive schools So they can get the most commission, they don’t care about the quality of the education.

    If more schools were able to better rely on direct students the quality of the education would increase as ELT providers would not have to give away their profits to agencies.

  3. Agents are only interested in financial gains for a quick turn round; more often than not advice given is not necessarily for the benefit of student .
    HEI are well equipped o offer better advice on visa requirements etc

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