Scriptorium – literally “a place of writing”, is used to refer to a room in medieval European monastaries devoted to the writing and copying of manuscripts by monastic scribes.

Around 1450, Johannes Gutenberg introduced the metal movable-type printing press in Europe. Before that time books in medieval Europe – particularly bibles or other religious texts – were often produced through manual copying by monks.

The process of medieval copying was tough. Finishing a single copy could take weeks even with long hours devoted only to copying. A monastic scribe would work for at least six hours a day, usually in an uncomfortable and poorly lit room. The best ones were exempted from daily prayers and given extra candles so they could work into the night.

Copying texts was hard on the body and the mind. In the tenth century one monk complained:

Only try to do it yourself and you will learn how arduous is the writer’s task. It dims your eyes, makes your back ache, and knits your chest and belly together. It is a terrible ordeal for the whole body“.

Monks whose every waking hour was devoted to copying texts often suffered from acedia, a “foul darkness” that causes the affected to act anxious, apathetic, and hopeless, “as if the sun was too slow in setting”. Today we’d call it depression.

Often monks would express their desperation in the margins of a manuscript they copied. One even wrote, at the end of his script:

Now I’ve written the whole thing. For Christ’s sake, give me a drink.”

Education agents – modern day monks

Fast forward over a thousand years or so to the present. Education agents looking to grow their panels of educational institution partners could be forgiven for feeling as desperate as the medieval monks of old as they are forced into a process of endless copying. Sure, computers and cut-and-paste makes their task a bit easier, but the process is no less soul destroying.

Education agents seeking to form new direct business relationships with educational institutions in order to place international students basically have two options:

  1. Attend an education agent fair – a good option, but challenging during COVID, and not something that all agents will can do given the time commitment and travel costs involved.
  2. Direct application – applying directly to an institution to become an official or authorised education agent.

This post will focus on the direct application method – a journey back in time to the medieval scriptorium…

Walk in an agent’s shoes…

Imagine yourself as an education agent sitting in front of their computer who has set themselves the task of identifying and reaching out to potential educational institution clients.

Here’s what that process looks like.

Step 1 – prospecting

The agent makes a list of institutions that they are interested in representing and visits each institution website.

Once on the website the agent tries to find the dedicated page for education agents – if it exists. If it does, the agent goes there and looks for the dreaded “Education Agent Application Form”.

Most educational institution websites – at least those with dedicated pages for education agents – ask prospective agents to complete an ‘Education Agent Application Form’ or something with a similar title.

Step 2 – death by form

Almost always the agent application forms are long and complex. The form fields vary between institutions, but at a minimum usually include:

  • Name of the applicant.
  • Business/agency name.
  • Business address.
  • Phone.
  • Email.
  • Details of key directors and employees – name, position, background and experience.
  • Details on performance – i.e the number of students they have recruited into your market.
  • Description of how they intend to market your institution/courses.
  • Professional Association memberships.
  • Referees.

And that’s just for starters.  Many institutions ask for a lot more.

The most sophisticated websites have genuine online forms – i.e. the fields are completed online, and the form is completed by clicking a ‘submit’ button.

The more ‘medieval’ websites take a rudimentary approach which asks the agent to:

  • Download a pdf form.
  • Print it.
  • Fill it out by hand.
  • Scan the completed form.
  • Email it back.

It’s exhausting just thinking about it. If an educational institution held a competition to design a process to ensure that very few education agents submit expressions of interest to represent it, the pdf-based process above would be a strong contender for top prize.

It might be bearable if an agent only had to do it once, but they don’t.

Our hapless education agent now commences the tasks of filling out these forms – whether online or in pdf/hard copy – over and over and over again.

Fill out a form for Institution A. Submit it.

Fill out a form with the same information for Institution B. Submit it.

Fill out a form with the same information for Institution C. Submit it.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat…

It’s hard to imagine a less efficient system.

A better approach

AgentBee offers a simple and efficient solution that makes it easy for educational institutions to connect.

No multiple forms or medieval copying.

Click below to find out more…