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First time audits of Beijing agencies to be made public

Consumer reports on quality education agencies in Beijing are set to be released by the China Consumer Commission following a first of its kind audit commissioned by the Beijing Municipal Education Commission (BMEC) of the 71 state-licensed education agencies operating in China’s capital.

There are 71 state-licensed study abroad consulting agencies in Beijing. Photo: ahenobarbus.

Nine agencies did not pass muster, and are currently undergoing improvements.

The Beijing Overseas Study Service Association (BOSSA) carried out the inspection and has released a report with a list of 62 agencies that passed. Once the results have been formally approved by BMEC, agency feedback will be publicly released.

According to BOSSA, 125,198 students travelled overseas to study through licensed Beijing-based agencies last year, an increase of 8.5% over 2012 accounting for around 25% of all Chinese students who study abroad.

The report also sheds light on the size and type of study abroad businesses operating in Beijing showing that the majority are small to medium-sized operations sending no more than 500 students abroad each year.

The report concluded that there is still “room for improvement and further development” in the industry

The audit found nine agencies did not pass muster and are currently undergoing improvements based on BOSSA recommendations. BOSSA expects to release revised reports based on this work in Autumn this year.

The agencies that did not make the pass list either did not provide sufficient materials to complete the inspection or showed “irregularities” such as unclear property rights or incorrect registration information, Jon Santangelo, BOSSA’s Communications Director, said.

He added that some agencies are in a “business transformation phase” and are in the process of changing their scope of study abroad consulting to other business practices.

“We suggested to the Beijing Municipal Education Commission to collaborate with BOSSA to help solve the practical problems of those nine agencies,” Santangelo told The PIE News.

“BOSSA held a series of a few small meetings with BMEC for those nine agencies to hear out their current situations and thus we provide advisement.”

BOSSA said it has worked with the China Consumer Commission to gather data and qualitatively design the feedback reports for publication.

Businesses that failed or did not fully participate in the inspection will face no financial penalty, but may suffer the loss of positive publicity that comes from being named among the 62 passing agencies in the publications.

The majority of the agencies assessed are small and mid-sized businesses, with 43 sending 499 people or fewer people overseas a year

The inspection, which began last year, follows reports of a potential government crackdown on agencies as demand for study abroad continues to grow. There are around 450 licensed agencies operating in China, but thousands of unlicensed businesses.

Registered agencies in Beijing employ around 6,800 people in total, and the majority of the agencies assessed are small and mid-sized businesses, with 43 sending 499 people or fewer people overseas a year the audit found.

Just three of the licensed agencies were described as “flagship enterprises”, sending 10,000 or more people abroad every year.

Seven of the agencies send students to 20 or more different countries; 20 send students to between 10 and 19 countries; and 28 have fewer than nine study destinations.

The inspection process took more than three months and included site visits and verification and assessment of materials by third-party experts in order to ensure impartiality.

In the report, BOSSA concluded that there is still “room for improvement and further development” in Beijing’s agency industry.

It recommended improving specific areas of businesses including greater focus on employee training, better regulation of employee behaviour and establishing a stronger brand image.

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