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Education agents are vital: British Council

Education agents are essential to the international education industry, despite the controversy that surrounds them. This is the latest positive indictment of agencies from UK cultural mission (and global language teaching operation), the British Council. In its recent paper, it also notes that the debate over the ethics of their use is becoming “detached” from the reality seen by students on the ground.

“While this gap exists, education agents will be there to fill it"

The comments are part of the Why Students Use Agents – Demand and Supply report, which surveyed 131,000 international students between 2007 and 2010 about their views on agents.

Released this month, the report airs positive and negative views gleaned from student interviews and questionnaires, but says in its conclusions, “A knowledge and information gap exists between prospective students – and importantly their fee-paying parents – and the process of overseas study… While this gap exists, education agents will be there to fill it.”

The comments will hearten agents, particularly in the US where college admissions officers are deeply divided over their use. Earlier this year, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) considered barring its members from using commission-based recruiters abroad, although it has since called for a two-year moratorium on the issue while a NACAC-appointed commission further considers the role that education agencies play in the industry.

“No matter the controversy, the fact that education agents have become a global industry is undeniable,” said Elizabeth Shepherd, Research Manager at the British Council’s Education Intelligence unit. “We must step away from the debate and understand how differently prospective students and their parents view agents, depending on where in the world they live.”

Overall, Why Students Use Agents offers an invaluable snapshot of the fragmented agent industry worldwide. East Asian students were found to be most likely to use an agent with 48% saying they had contacted or planned to contact an agent in the past, followed by African students (41%), South Asian (39%) and Latin American (30%).

East Asian students were found to be most likely to use an agent

Students from Europe, Latin America and China were said to use agents primarily for information on foreign institutions, while in India and Africa advice on obtaining a visa was most important. The report also identified a growing need across the group for help with visas and applications, reflecting the tightening of immigration policies in the UK, US and Australia over the past few years.

The report also found that those who had studied at university overseas in the past were less likely to use agents than those who studied overseas at a lower levels – for example on English language courses.

International students were also more likely to use the services of an agency when seeking specialist courses such as veterinary science, or popular subjects such as business and administration.

Dr Janet Ilieva, Director of Research for Education Intelligence said: “In the UK the British Council encourages the use of agents amongst UK education providers and aims to develop a wider acceptance and understanding of the role and value of agents in student recruitment.”

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8 Responses to Education agents are vital: British Council

  1. Pingback: OZ and BRITISH official studies find EDUCATION AGENTS AS VITAL… Shutting off the opinionated. | RLS's Blog

  2. Would be interesting to get views of both agents and institutions too. Issue for many agents is where an institution or their personnel see their role as managing agents, and “top down” setting out of recruitment strategy that may not fit what happens on ground?

    This maybe exemplified by “market research” questions “when is a good time visit?”, “which education fair do you recommend” etc. with institutional resources being directed toward conventional one off annual events, and arbitrary recruitment targets forced upon agents, without input into marketing strategy.

    However, many agents may find it difficult to cooperate on a marketing strategy, let alone digital marketing strategy all year round.

    This leads some agents to opine that while they have no issue with the institution but feel they are in competition with institutional personnel who are in between students, agents and the institution?

    One of the most bizarre examples I have experienced as an agent was assisting an institution doing a “tour” of education fairs (which we did not recommend) but when informing a parent (that we were local and could talk anytime) was physically brushed aside by institution’s marketing admin manager who was desperate to “project” themselves. Not unlike being on the dancefloor…… 🙂

  3. A welcome report from the BC, yet a little late and perhaps more important the BC failed to extend their agent accreditation scheme from Korea to other markets years back. By now some of the more professional agents are well established with years of experience and in some cases doing a better job than the BC in promoting the UK as a destination. Most schools in the UK would know that without agents, there would be very little UK Education Plc.

  4. I am an international student right now, and years ago I requested the service of an agent to find out about language programs in Canada.
    The service was totally a disaster, worst service I ever had. It was even painful due to the terrible moments I had to gone through due to this unreliable and disorganized service. Most of the international language schools, universities, and colleges have very well trained and educated personnel to help international students with all the process of studying abroad. Therefore, I do not see why we, as international students, have to pay high fees for services that are not worthwhile.

  5. From my point of view, the concern is do the agents provide unbiased information in promoting institutions? I do understand the role of an agent is like a match maker and they must be vetted to make sure that its a right fit. To me that’s the most challenging part.

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