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UK universities pay £120m in agent commission

British universities paid an estimated £120 million in agent commission in 2011/12 according to a new study. Revealing the extent to which UK institutions rely on agents, it estimates that of 302, 600 non-EU students recruited, around 38 per cent were placed by commission based recruiters.

Commission varied between institutions with some paying a flat rate, others around 10%

Institutions were said to pay an average of £1,000 per overseas student in commission

With international student fees costing an average of £10,738 – about double what domestic students pay – institutions were said to pay about 10%, or £1,000, in commission. Some such as the University of Nottingham, however, paid a flat rate (in its case £1,450).

The survey, which was based on freedom of information requests to institutions, was conducted by the student payment firm Uni-Pay and its partner Centurus, an admissions and agent management firm. It received responses from 106 institutions.

Simon Read, managing director of Uni-Pay, believes universities could be more effective in their dealings with agents. “Universities could be far more efficient in how they spend their money on interacting with and managing agents – which are an important part of the overall recruitment process.”

The survey also revealed that admissions standards varied wildly between universities, with some taking just one or two days to process applications, others an average of three months.

Furthermore, international students were estimated to pay an additional £34 million in international bank transfer fees annually.

Students from outside Britain (including other parts of the European Union) have become universities’ largest source of income over the last decade, accounting for almost 10 per cent of total funding.

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