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:

  1. Institution focused – providing guidance for institutions on how they should approach education agent management; and
  2. 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.

International

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.

Australia

US

  • 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.

UK  

NZ

Canada

  • 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.

Click here to find out more.

 

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash