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New Zealand: half of int’l uni students recruited through agents

The proportion of international university students who used an education agent to study in New Zealand has increased to almost half, according to the latest report from education marketing consultants Studymove.

Agent use is on the rise for New Zealand universities. Photo: Tim Marshall/UnsplashAgent use is on the rise for New Zealand universities. Photo: Tim Marshall/Unsplash

Universities paid 4.2% of revenue as commission to agents, or just short of $1,500 per student

“Because they have smaller numbers they have room to grow in a healthy manner”

The International Education Benchmark, quantifying enrolments and mobility of students at New Zealand’s universities found on average, 48% of overseas students were recruited through an education agent in 2017, 10 percent up from the previous year.

“In 12 months… to move forward in the level of engagement with education agents, I think is remarkable,” said Keri Ramirez, managing director of Studymove.

“That is something we’ve seen across the eight universities, and I think that it’s showing a more active approach on working with agents. A lot of initiatives are happening around working with agents and bringing them to work with New Zealand institutions.”

Part of the reason for the increase, Ramirez said, was New Zealand universities beginning to develop a culture of agent use, after taking notice of the high level of engagement in other study destinations such as Australia and the UK.

Speaking with The PIE News, he said agent metrics provided to the universities also indicated a high level of return on investment for using the services of education agents.

“We’re noting this generation wants to start their overseas experience during university”

“The universities have the metrics that allowed them to just to explain internally to stakeholders that working with agents is a very effective way to recruit students from a financial point of view,” he said.

According to the report, universities paid around 4% of revenue in commission to agents, just short of NZ$1,500 per student, a half a percentile point increase from 2017.

The increase in agent usage appears to have also created a substantial boost to enrolments and the bottoms line of universities, with the report also finding a 6% increase in international enrolments and an 11% increase in revenue compared to 2016.

For 2017, international students generated $432.5 million in fees on campus, compared to $371.3 million.

In total, international students also represented 17% of entire universities enrolments, which the report compared favourably to Australia and the UK, which currently has on average 27% and 19% respectively.

“When we think about sustainability, one of the big differences between Australia and New Zealand is the actual number of students. When Australian universities are close to 300,000… in New Zealand with only eight [universities], there’s 28,000,” he said.

“Because they have smaller numbers, I think they have room to grow in a healthy manner. They haven’t reached that mass level that probably [is happening] in Australia.”

“The level of engagement with education agents I think is remarkable”

University of Auckland director of international Brett Berquist agreed with Ramirez that there had been an increased effort to engage with education agents among New Zealand universities.

“I think it’s just a natural progression of the industry overall,” he told The PIE.

“I think there’s been a sustained focus on increased work with agents,” he continued, adding that there was a noticeable improvement in the conversion rate of students who applied through an education agent over those who didn’t.

Outbound mobility shrunk slightly, but an overall improvement in the proportion of students participating across the sector.

Berquist said this was likely due to outbound mobility only recently becoming an area of focus for educators, and said that at Auckland, outbound levels sat around 20% of the student population.

“Traditionally… you would do your overseas experience after university, and what we’re noting just like everywhere else is this generation wants to start their overseas experience during university,” he said.

The decrease in the number of reported New Zealand students choosing an overseas study experience was also likely due to challenges with reporting processes, he added, saying that it would be an area of focus in the future.

In 2017, the government pledged to look into regulating offshore agents, with an updated online agent training program expected to launch in 2019.

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