Imagine how much more complicated the process is when the goal is to study abroad: evaluating the options in different countries and in different languages, understanding how your local qualifications fit in a different education system, working out what preparation or additional tests you might need to take, and that’s before you even start with the application processes.
Then, once you’ve secured a place at your chosen university, you need to apply for a visa, sort out travel, accommodation, and other requirements for getting to and living in another country, often far away from friends and family. It’s no wonder then that prospective students (and their parents) seek advice and support from local school and independent education counsellors and from education agents.
And it’s no wonder that universities and other types of education providers also value and support the work of these student advisers through the provision of dedicated materials, in-country visits to meet with the students they are supporting, as well as through commercial arrangements to ensure that their university is highlighted to interested students.
The British Council has always valued the role of international education study advisers whether they work in schools, as independent counsellors or as education agents. Their role promoting study in the UK and supporting thousands of students each year on their journeys to the UK is hugely important to students, education providers and to the UK’s international education success.
We launched the UK agent and counsellor training and engagement hub in December, and expect more than 20,000 individual agents and counsellors from around the world to register by end of March 2023.
The hub gives all education advisers access to up-to-date information and guidance on why students should choose the UK as a study destination, preparing students for studying and living in the UK, understanding the UK’s visa and immigration system as well as raising awareness of employment and post-study work opportunities.
“The provision of educational opportunities for foreign students is one of the most important instruments of soft power”
Studying at their own pace, education advisers can work their way through a series of eight short self-guided modules, testing their knowledge and learning as they progress and consolidating this by taking formal online assessments at the end of each module.
Experienced counsellors can fast track straight to the assessments. Those who successfully complete the assessments and sign up to The National Code of Ethical Practice become ‘UK Certified’ which certifies their knowledge and understanding. Certified advisers may be listed on a searchable UK database of certified agents and counsellors, so that all stakeholder can check that their chosen education adviser has the expected knowledge and skills.
Access to the hub, the training program and certification are all free of charge. The British Council is investing in these initiatives with the aim of supporting counsellors and agents with all the information they need to support international students considering a UK education.
Research shows that the provision of educational opportunities for foreign students is one of the most important instruments of soft power. Here at the British Council, we care passionately that each and every international student has a positive experience so they can continue to promote intercultural relationships from the moment they consider studying in the UK until they graduate and, hopefully, join Alumni UK.
We recognise that a positive experience should start from the first time they speak to an agent or school counsellor.
About the author: Jacqui Jenkins is Global Programme Lead – International Students Mobility and Marketing at British Council.