Education agent management matters
Education agents play an important role in the international education market and are responsible for a significant number of international student placements. In the Australian and US markets the percentage of international students recruited through agents is growing very rapidly.
The graph below tells the story:
The numbers above show that working with agents can be a huge opportunity. But it also comes with plenty of risk. Just one ‘rogue agent’ can cause a huge amount of damage to an institution’s brand and reputation, mislead students, and generally wreak havoc.
To support educational institutions to get the most from their agent relationships, and to manage the risks, guidance on best practice has been developed in most of the main destination markets. Each of these best practice documents is different in form, and in some respects substance, but they have a lot in common. In fact many of the documents cross reference each other. That makes sense. When it comes down it, the key principles of education agent best practice are, and should be, the same wherever you are in the world.
We’re all in this together
Given the similarities, perhaps we should regard the work done so far around the world as components of a growing body of global best practice for education agent management, rather than ‘best practice in Australia’ or ‘best practice in the US’.
Educational institutions that are using education agents obviously have to ensure that they are meeting the minimum requirements of education agent management best practice in their own markets, but maybe it also makes sense to look at what else is out there, and to consider what other elements of best practice around the world will deliver the best outcome for them and their international students.
To help educational institutions that are minded to take that broader approach, we’ve pulled together the key education agent management best practice documents and sources from around the world. (Please let us know if we have missed any!)
Broadly there are two types of best practice documents:
- Institution focused – providing guidance for institutions on how they should approach education agent management; and
- Agent focused – providing guidance to agents on how they should conduct themselves.
For each country we have listed the documents in publication date order, with the most recent documents first.
Statement of Principles for the Ethical Recruitment of International Students by Education Agents and Consultants – (known as the ‘London Statement’) – March 2012 – agreed by education officials from Australia, UK, New Zealand and Ireland following joint talks. It sets out seven standards that education agents should meet, which the participating countries agreed would be reflected in each country’s approach to international education.
- Australian International Education and Training – Agent Code of Ethics – October 2016 – announced with much fanfare in 2016 it provides a set of standards to be followed by education agents.
- ACPET Code of Practice for the Engagement of Education Agents – February 2015 – published by the Australian Council for Private Education and Training, this document provides high level principles for both institutions and agents.
- Queensland VET Sector – International Education Agent Management: A Best Practice Guide for Agent Management – December 2011 – Published by the Queensland Government, this is one of the best, most comprehensive best practice guides we have read. It is definitely worth a look.
- Best Practice in Education Agent Management – 2010 – published by Victorian TAFE International, it provides a helpful best practice checklist in section 4.
- Using Education Agents: A Guide for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students – 2009 – published by the Australian Federal Government in mid-2009 it is one of the older documents in this list. At only about 6 pages long, it provides educational institutions with useful tips on each stage of the agency management process without going into a lot of detail.
- National Code, Part D, Standard 4 – Education Agents: Explanatory Guide to Standard 4 – 2007 – Australia has legislation in place that regulates the use of education agents by educational institutions. This guide provides information to educational institutions on how they can comply with their obligations regarding education agents.
- International Student Recruitment Agencies: A Guide for Schools, Colleges and Universities – 2014- published by the National Association of College Admission Counselling, it provides useful guidance on each phase of the education agent management life cycle, from considering legal requirements, developing institutional policies, recruiting agents, and ongoing interaction with, and supervision of, agents. It also includes several really useful appenices including an education agent management due diligence checklist, sample agency questionnaire, sample reference check questions, and agent remuneration approaches.
- Best Practices in International Student Recruitment: AIRC Members’ Perceptions on Baseline and Best Practices in Campus Services for International Students, Institutional Transparency, and Agency Management – published by the American International Recruitment Council it provides practical examples of ‘baseline’ and ‘best practice’ approaches in the management of education agents.
- Managing International Student Recruitment Agents: Approaches, Benefits and Challenges – written under the auspices of the British Council, this report provides an overview of the use of agents by UK institutions and approaches to agent management. It comes up with 10 best practice recommendations.
- Guide to Good practice for Education Agents – a British council document that provides seven best practice standards for agents.
- Assuring Quality for International Students Studying in the UK: A Guide for UK Higher Education Providers – includes a brief section on the use of education agents (i.e half a page) that provides some high level best practice points for institutions to consider when working with agents.
- Guidelines for the Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016 – Tertiary – provides some relatively brief guidance on managing and monitoring education agents.
- The Role of Education Agent’s in Canada’s Education Systems – December 2013 – published by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada this document is more of an analysis of the role of agents in the Canadian market. It does provide some insights into best practice – mainly through descriptions of what not to do – bit it is not really a best practice guide.
Getting it done
If you read, or even skimmed, the documents above it would be easy to be overwhelmed. There is a lot involved in best practice education agent management. Doing it properly requires a significant investment of time and resources.
And there are no shortcuts. Selecting and implementing bits of education agent management best practice is not an option.
It doesn’t work to say “I’ll focus on identifying and recruiting good agents and the rest will take care of itself.”, or “we haven’t got time for regular engagement with agents so we’ll tell them to check the website for updates.”, or “if an agent is sending us good numbers of students we’ll assume that they are meeting our professional and ethical standards.” Each of the best practice elements laid out in the documents listed above is part of an integrated approach. You have to cover it all . As Yoda said – “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Let’s not lose sight of the big picture here. Implementing best practice education agent management processes should not be regarded just as a compliance burden. The point is that best practice actually yields better results. Making good decisions about the agents you work with at the outset provides the foundation for success, regular communication and training with agents maximises their ability to recruit international students for you, and think of regular monitoring as necessary insurance against the harm that can be done to your institution’s reputation and prospective students by unprofessional or dishonest agents.
Get help to implement best practice education agent management
AgentBee offers solutions for educational institutions which:
- want to start recruiting through education agents but don’t know where to start, or
- are using agents but want to get more out of their agent channel, or
- want to more actively manage the risk of working with education agents.