A new academic article focuses on the importance of, and approach to education agent monitoring. The article, titled Monitoring of Education Agents Engaged in International Student Recruitment: Perspectives from the Agency Theory was jointly authored by Pii-Tuulia Nikula, a senior lecturer at EIT in New Zealand, and
Jussi Kivistö a professor at the Higher Education Group, Faculty of Management Business, Tampere University, Finland.

Tuulia Nikula
Jussi Kivistö

The authors start by noting the important role that education agents play in the international education market. We covered this in our recent post Why the education agent recruitment model is broken. They then focus on the issue of education agent monitoring by educational institutions.

The authors describe education agent monitoring as one of the key underlying issues in ethical education agent management. They point out that education agent miscondunct can violate the interests of international students, client governments, and destination country governments. They are right. AgentBee’s regular education agent alerts highlight the risk involved with unprofessional, unethical or outright dishonest behaviour by education agents.

The authors argue that effective monitoring of education agents is an important tool in best practice education agent management for the following reasons:

  1. Education agents are more likely to comply with the minimum service standards set by an institution if they know that effective monitoring processes are in place. If agents know that there are no effective monitoring processes in place, the chance of misconduct by agents increases.
  2. It’s the only way to get a ‘live’ picture of how your agents are performing. Sure, pre-contract due diligence is important, but it only gives you a point-in-time snapshot.

Education agent monitoring: what is best practice?

The article notes that best practice guidelines have emerged in several of the main study destination countries, including Australia, the US and New Zealand. We summarized this global best practice in a comprehensive post,which covers the main best practice documents in each country. The authors believe that existing best practice documents and guidance generally overlook the issue of education agent monitoring, or at least don’t cover them in enough detail.

The authors then move to analyse the main prevailing methods of education agent monitoring – student feedback, and performance data analysis.

Student Feedback

The article contends that collecting student feedback on agent performance has a range of weaknesses, in particular:

  • a student may not be well placed to evaluate aspect of the agent’s performance, like whether the agent recommended the most suitable study destination or institution
  • the timing of the feedback and the manner in which it is sought may also affect the results; and
  • student feedback does not allow an institution to gain insight into how an agent treated non-applicants, or applicants that decided to study at another institution.

Performance data analysis

Performance data analysis can include looking at the number of applications, offers, visa approval rates, enrolments and conversion rates.

New Zealand makes data on education agent performance public. Australia has said that it will do the same in 2019.

The authors conclude that using student feedback and performance data analysis together will provide good insight into education agent performance. But they also suggest that educational institutions go a step further and consider a ‘mystery shopper’ approach.

In conclusion they say:

The international student recruitment industry needs to be guided towards a better use of the existing techniques as well as a more comprehensive use of mystery shopping to better observe education agents’ behaviour. Effective monitoring will not solve all the issues related to this industry, but it will be a significant step in the right direction.

Couldn’t agree more.

Why you should insist that your agents are AgentBee members

Education agents who are members of AgentBee are committed to professionalism, integrity and transparency in international student recruitment.

They show that commitment by seeking a review of their performance from each student they place and making those reviews publicly available on AgentBee.

If your agents are AgentBee members, you can check on their performance at any time for the students they have placed at your institution, and other institutions too.

If you want better visibility of the performance of your education agents suggest that they join AgentBee.

Are you an education agent?