Earlier today I read this very good post by Mel Broitman on the Inside Higher Ed blog.

Mel Broitman is Director of Higher-Edge, which operates the Canadian University Application Centre. Since 1997 Higher-Edge and the CUAC have recruited more than 8,000 students to Canada.

In summary the post notes that Canadian universities and colleges are increasingly focussed on recruiting international students, and raises serious concerns about the compromises being made to increase international student enrollments.

It is overwhelmingly evident that in the last two decades we have witnessed first-hand a remarkable and callous disregard for academic ethics and standards in a scramble by Canadian universities and colleges to sign up foreign students, who represent tens of millions of dollars to their bottom lines.

This issue and the risks that go with it are common across the main international education destination markets.

The post raises particular concerns about the use of education agents:

Nowhere are corrupt practices more evident than in contracted relationships between universities and colleges with education agents worldwide. The UNESCO report is but a distillation of hundreds of incidents too often fraught with misrepresentations, fraud and exploitation. Australians have conducted official investigations and reported extensively on these corrupt practices. You can read many these stories in British and American newspapers, but in Canada, there is rarely a mention of this epidemic of abuse. Canadian visa officers overseas must sift through a plethora of fraudulent files from agents who are licensed by Canadian colleges and universities. Yet Canadian academic institutions, desperate to put bums in seats and meet their escalating operating costs and salaries, turn a blind eye.

Too few academic institutions are serious enough about screening and vetting applications. Minimal investment is made in meaningful scrutiny. It’s not just academic integrity that is lacking, academic quality is diminishing as cohorts of international students grow in number but not in ability.

There are definitely significant risks involved in working with agents – both for students and institutions – which need to be well understood and carefully managed.

Australia has, like other markets, grappled with the implications of education agents and their place in the market. The response has been to place the responsibility for risk management squarely on the institutions that use agents by requiring them to have policies and systems in place to support transparency and integrity. For example Australian institutions are required by law to list their education agents on their website. Not to do so is a criminal offence.

Agents play a huge role in the market. Research shows that approximately 41% of international students in Canada were recruited through agents. In Australia, the proportion is 62%. That is unlikely to change.

So what’s the answer then?

The answer has to be for institutions to own the risks associated with working with agents, and manage them to support good outcomes for themselves and the international students that they are seeking to attract. AgentBee supports unis, colleges and schools to do that.

A final note for in-house recruiters…

If you considering your approach to education agent management, please check out AgentBee. It’s a complete agent management system that:

  1. Increases enrollments through your agent channel – by making it easy for you to engage with agents regularly and give them easy access to the information and resources they need to recruit for you.
  1. Saves time for in-house recruitment teams – by making it easy to do the daily tasks involved with managing your agent network – eg updates, training, and performance monitoring.
  1. Manages risk – by giving you tools to protect your brand and reputation by monitoring agent engagement and performance.