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Staying the course: striving for quality in student recruitment

There is a shared responsibility for the quality of students recruited to universities in the UK
December 12 2023
3 Min Read

“We are a nation of creative thinkers, daring dreamers and curious scientists” – that’s a quote from the UK Government’s GREAT Campaign website. It perfectly summarises the UK as a nation but it goes further than that it also perfectly summarises the kind of international student that wants to call the UK their educational home.

There is a shared responsibility for the quality of students recruited.

That’s a great slogan and does reflect the UK but the reality is that there are gaps in our sector regarding quality. Agencies or university representatives are often the first to be singled out regarding quality students but the view is much more complex than that.

As a university representative, we balance the probability that an applicant is likely to enrol in much the same way that UKVI does.

Ultimately it is in the best interest of the university representative to recruit quality students. We aren’t paid based on the leads we receive, the applications we make or the queries we make.

All must recognise the benefit of university representatives in the recruitment of international students and the steps taken to ensure that the applicants universities enrol are of the highest quality.

What do those steps look like?

At AHZ we focus fully on quality from lead all the way through to enrolment and at each step of the process and we aren’t scared to withdraw an applicant (no matter what the stage) if we believe or find evidence that their intentions aren’t genuine.

Our focus on quality starts at the enquiry stage. We work around the clock to ensure that the reach of our adverts is targeted at those who we deem as genuinely interested in UK study. We have teams in each of our markets dedicated to ensuring that only qualified applicants reach our counsellors.

At the counselling stage, we take a wider view of the applicant, starting to further assess their English language, their financial stability, where funds are likely to be sourced from and generally look at the reason why an applicant wants to study particularly in the UK.

It is at this point where we take out non-genuine applicants – our teams are trained to spot things that don’t match up with what the applicant is suggesting.

We then look at what the UKVI defines as pull factors. The UK has an incredible history and studying in the UK is a dream for many international students but there has to be more than that. At this point, we’re looking for students to be able to outline their intentions post study and what that means for them and their families.

It is a great opportunity for us to understand the student more and make sure we place them in the right environment for their future needs.

Before we move applicants to the “application stage” we ask our compliance team to interview them. This means that we aren’t putting applications through to universities that are unlikely to convert or aren’t as genuine as previously thought. It is at this point we really start to understand what the applicant’s intentions are. That said, we reject more applicants at the counselling stage than we do at the compliance stage.

Post-application, we then run our formal compliance process, which sees the applicant put through a formal interview process that is akin to those run by universities.

This step is an important opportunity for us to make sure that the applicant is genuine and to get applicants used to interviews of this nature – most of our applicants have never been through this kind of process before and ensuring they have nothing to worry about is key to making sure they are open, honest and transparent about their intentions.

“A decision was taken to pay a nominal amount into the bank account of the applicant and ask them to present their bank statements a few days later”

There are also several other steps that we take into consideration. One such example is in Nigeria where we were seeing issues with bank statements and the potential for fraud increasing. A decision was taken to pay a nominal amount into the bank account of the applicant and ask them to present their bank statements a few days later.

This proved to be a really quick and effective way for us to confirm that the bank statements were genuine and gave us the confidence that we could proceed with this applicant. Those that didn’t come back, well let’s just hope that they didn’t find another way!

At AHZ there is a lot more to recruiting than just inputting details into a system and hoping for the best.

We are fully focused on enrolling the right applicants at the right universities and focus every step of the way on quality to ensure the best outcome for all those involved.

We don’t always get it right, but it is at the heart of everything we do and we always seek to learn lessons when it doesn’t go in the right direction.

About the author: This is a sponsored article by Benjamin Bilverstone, Chief Operations Officer at AHZ. AHZ is one of the UK’s largest international student recruitment agencies. AHZ has a global network of offices that exclusively provide support to international students wishing to study in the UK.


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