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ICEF introduces new agent code of conduct

ICEF has introduced a new code of conduct and additional vetting for its education agents, in a move it says will accelerate the self-regulation of the industry.

Sanctioned agents are unable to continue doing business in new markets under the IAS program. Photo: Unsplash

Feedback so far from IAS agents has been positive regarding the changes

All agents with ICEF Agency Status are now required to endorse and comply with a fresh set of best practices, which ICEF said provides a “simple and clear standard” for professional conduct in the sector.

The increasing use of education agents in international recruitment underscores the need for improved quality standards, according to ICEF CEO Markus Badde.

“The number of active agents continues to grow quickly yet the sector still remains largely unregulated. For decades we have consistently worked to advance professional standards in international student recruitment by screening, training and accrediting education agencies,” said Badde.

“Given current circumstances we feel there is now a need to do more.”

In recent years, scandals involving individuals posing as agents to take advantage of students – including by use of fake documents – have made headlines globally, with ICEF previously calling for industry-led standards.

The new code of conduct gives further credibility to those agents with ICEF accreditation, Badde continued.

“Agents signing it confirm that they act with fairness and integrity and maintain transparent and accountable practices, and thus also stand out from the crowd proving their professionalism, business compliance and ethical behaviour.”

In addition, ICEF has expanded its accreditation program, which includes a “more in-depth” vetting process for participating agencies and increased monitoring and quality assurance measures carried out by ICEF’s globally distributed Agent Relations team.

This includes new criteria such as the verification of an agency’s digital footprint with social media presence and student reviews being accepted.

The reference process has also been tightened. Now, two of the four educator references that the agency must submit have to be accredited or state recognised institutions. In addition, all four references are contacted by ICEF with a “detailed” voice or video call, whereas earlier this process was done via email.

Further changes mean that agencies and reference-providing educators must now declare that they have no ownership or affiliation with one other.

The efforts follow on from improvements made in 2022 when ICEF introduced block chain technology enabling students, parents and educators to easily and instantly verify if an agency had IAS accreditation.

Under the new changes, the IAS designation is valid for one year, rather than two, and after this time, the vetting process must be renewed.

“The number of active agents continues to grow quickly yet the sector still remains largely unregulated”

“Having a trusted source of accredited agencies around the world is imperative, particularly at a time when lower barriers to entry have created a proliferation of new agency players,” said Tiffany Egler, executive director for Agent Relations at ICEF.

Educators will be better assured that they are working with professional organisations, she added.

Badde noted that the changes will allow agents to “stand out even further from the crowd and distinguish themselves as professional agents in what has become a very crowded field”.

It is hoped that educators will too reap the rewards of the additional vetting and code of conduct, lessening the need to ask as many questions as they normally would in order to ascertain an agent’s professionalism and quality.

“Educators get approached on a daily basis by agents wishing to work with them which they need to evaluate, and the IAS is a key differentiator since it provides a foundation, with ICEF having accomplished a substantial portion of that due diligence work for them,” said Badde.

Badde explained that agents within the IAS program who have been found not to have respected quality standards are therefore sanctioned in a given market can no longer pop up in a new market and continue to do business there.

“If an agent breaks any IAS rules they are effectively no longer part of the global agent/educator networking ecosystem that is ICEF.”

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