I recently read an excellent post on the PIE blog by Dr. Mark Ashwill, the MD of Capstone in Vietnam: “Meet the new boss, similar to the old boss: new agent regulations unveiled in Vietnam”.

I always find Mark’s insights to be really interesting, and I have covered some of his previous commentary in earlier posts (Ethical agent recruitment: the buck stops with the institutionVietnam: Confusion on New Education Agent Rules).

In this latest post he discusses recent changes to laws in Vietnam regulating education agents. The changes are the latest development in a ‘wild west’ environment characterised by ongoing regulatory volatility.

In summary this is what’s happened in the education agent regulation space in Vietnam over the last few years:

2014Laws made requiring education agents to obtain certification.
2016The certification requirements were abruptly dropped making it much easier for anyone to hang out a shingle as an education agent.
2017Vietnamese Government issues a new decree with a revised set of regulations re-instituting the requirement for agents to be trained and certified.

The post points out that there are no surprises here. Vietnam is a country in flux and the international education sector is no exception.

Mark’s expertise in the Vietnam market provides a great insight for institutions that are seeking to recruit international students from that country, but I think there are also some other broader themes to draw from his post.

There’s more than one ‘Wild West’

Mark’s post is a useful reminder of the issues and risks that go with many emerging international student recruitment markets around the world, not just Vietnam.

It’s exciting that the global international student market continues to grow each year, with many countries offering huge future international student recruitment potential for institutions with focus and entrepreneurial spirit.

Commentators like QS: Top Universities and ICEF are in general agreement on the countries to watch as the emerging sources of international students:

  • Brazil
  • Nigeria
  • Indonesia
  • Turkey
  • Mexico
  • Colombia
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • the Philippines
  • Bangladesh
  • Pakistan
  • Iran

Now it’s always dangerous to generalise, but it’s clear that there are several countries on that list where regulatory volatility and weak compliance controls around the activities of education agents are likely to be a factor as they are in Vietnam.

It’s something for institutions to be mindful of when designing and implementing their education agent strategy and leads me to my next point.

‘Certified by the [country name] government’. So what?

Vietnam is one of a number of emerging markets where education agents are required by law to be certified or licensed in order to operate.

In countries where certification or licensing is a legal requirement, an institution should ensure that any education agents they are working with meet the minimum requirements.

Working with unlicensed education agents could be interpreted as undermining a country’s regulatory system, and is not a good look for any institution.

Working with licenced education agents may also provide an institution with a very small element of confidence in the agent, but be careful about taking this too far.

In reality the regulation of education agents in emerging markets can mean very little. Mark’s comment on the state of play in Vietnam illustrates the point:

 

As with the original requirements, this process of training and certification, while lacking in many respects, is better than what was in place before, which was essentially nothing.



Mark A Ashwill
Mark A Ashwill Capstone, Vietnam

In countries where laws regulating education agents are in place it may be that they change regularly and unpredictably.

Where stable regulation is in place, there is a further question about the compliance and enforcement regime that supports the regulation. Making laws is one thing, enforcing them is another.  If compliance with regulations is not regularly monitored and enforced the value of an education agent licensing or certification process is significantly reduced.

That’s all very well, but how in the world is an institution considering working with education agents in an emerging market supposed to understand the detailed inner workings of a country’s regulatory and compliance regime for education agents?

You can’t – well at the very least it is darn hard – and this brings me to my final point.

Risk and reward

Emerging markets offer huge international student recruitment potential.

For many institutions using education agents will be the quickest and most effective way to penetrate emerging markets. The catch is that there will be significant risk involved in working with education agents in those markets.

Should institutions press on or walk away? The answer will depend on the risk appetite of each institution.

Institutions can manage and mitigate the risks by implementing and maintaining a best practice approach to education agent management. That involves work, time and resources and is easier said that done for stretched in-house international student recruitment teams.

The good news – and yes it’s a plug – is that AgentBee enables institutions to increase enrolements through their agent channel, save time and manage risk by implementing best practice education agent management.

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