Chinese education agents are fueling a surge of Chinese international students into Thailand.
There are now about 30,000 students from mainland China studying at higher education institutions in Thailand. They are attracted by cultural similarities, and the relatively low cost of tuition and living when compared to popular study destination countries like the US, UK, Australia and Canada.
Some of the demand also comes from students who failed China’s annual university entrance exam – the gaokao.
Chada Triamvithaya, an academic at Thailand’s King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang said that many educational institutions in Thailand are using Chinese education agents to boost their enrolments:
Thai universities face tougher competition because of lower numbers of local students due to demographic trends, so they have relied on many Chinese education agents to supply them with students.
Rapid international student growth, combined with under-pressure educational institutions desperate to grab their share of the international student pie – it is a guaranteed recipe for international students to be exploited. And that is what’s happening.
Increasing numbers of Chinese international students in Thailand feel that they are being exploited by the universities, or the Chinese education agents who recruited them in China. Complaints of sub-standard courses and over charging by agents are common.
Tang, a 35 year old PhD candidate is a case in point. In 2017 he paid a Chinese education agent in Beijing about 120,000 yuan (US$17,000) to study a two year MBA course at a private university in Thailand. The price included a semester tuition, air fares and accommodation.
When he arrived he quickly realised he was ripped off:
I found out that other Chinese students paid around 100,000 yuan (US$14,000). That was when I knew I had been overcharged. To this day, I don’t know how much the real fee was.
Chada Triamvithaya stressed the importance of Thai institutions working with reputable education agents:
We need ones which focus on education quality and ethics, and not just the money.
He’s right. It’s the very same challenged faced by educational institutions all over the world that use education agents as part of their international student recruitment strategy.
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