If you are an in-house international student recruiter working with education agents, this excellent article by Mark Ashwill in University World News is worth a read.
Mark is managing director of Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company with offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City that works exclusively with regionally accredited colleges and universities in the United States.
Mark starts by stating his position on the use of education agents:
It has been argued, in University World News and elsewhere, that the way to address the problem of unethical student recruitment agencies is to ban them. But are all education agents inherently bad? No. Are there serious issues and potential pitfalls? Absolutely. While I agree that education agents should follow ethical business practices, I disagree that the solution is not to use any of them.
I took the same position in a recent post – Education agents should be banned (or maybe not).
Mark also reaches the same conclusion: it is the responsibility of an institution that uses agents to ensure that agents are acting professionally and ethically. He says:
Although the use of education agents is fraught with potential problems, it is possible to develop ways to address legitimate concerns related to the holy trinity of accountability, integrity and transparency.
Like any business relationship, whether it’s related to education or any number of other products and services, trust is essential. Trust is based on reputation and meeting the expectations of the ‘customer’, in this case, a college or university involved in recruitment of international students. It is strengthened with each successful and mutually beneficial interaction.
So, choose carefully, hold your education agent(s) accountable, monitor their activities, stay engaged, stay in touch, and reward them for a job well done, which is to help recruit qualified and suitable students for your institution.
Sure, but it’s easier said than done
The fact is that implementing an education agent strategy that reflects best practice is resource intensive. Identifying, vetting and on-boarding new agents; regular engagement with agents; agent training; site visits; and agent performance monitoring – it all takes time and resources.
All of these tasks fall to in-house recruitment teams, but they are generally already very stretched with all of the other business-as-usual work that must be done.
Often the outcome is that an institution will have a comprehensive policy covering how it works with education agents, which breaks down at the implementation stage because in-house recruitment teams don’t have the time or supporting systems to do everything that needs to be done.
The right tool for the job
The good news is that, like any job, it becomes a lot easier if you have the right tool.
AgentBee makes it easy for in-house teams to do all of the day-to-day tasks of managing an agent network, automating as many of the mundane jobs as possible.
You do everything by logging in to your branded portal which we build for you. From there you can upload new marketing and training documents and material for agents (including videos, or podcasts), and provide quick updates similar to doing a Facebook post. Any update you do is visible to agents when they log in to your portal. Also when you do an update your agents will automatically get an email from your institution alerting them to the update.
All of this means you can engage with agents more frequently – so that your institution stays at the forefront of their mind – but spend a lot less time than it takes you now.
Agent monitoring is also an important part of AgentBee. An unprofessional or dishonest agent can cause significant damage to your brand. To address that risk regular and ongoing monitoring of your agents should be a key part of your agent strategy.
AgentBee provides tools to make it easy for you to monitor agent engagement and performance.