“While gap exists, education agents will be there to fill it”
Education agents are essential to the international education industry, despite the controversy that surrounds them. This is the latest positive indictment of agencies from UK cultural mission (and global language teaching operation), the British Council. In its recent paper, it also notes that the debate over the ethics of their use is becoming “detached” from the reality seen by students on the ground.
(This is sourced from the article by Dan Thomas, The PIE’s roving report. His article is on this link.)
The comments are part of the Why Students Use Agents – Demand and Supply report, which surveyed 131,000 international students between 2007 and 2010 about their views on agents.
Released this month, the report airs positive and negative views gleaned from student interviews and questionnaires, but says in its conclusions, “A knowledge and information gap exists between prospective students – and importantly their fee-paying parents – and the process of overseas study… While this gap exists, education agents will be there to fill it.”
The comments will hearten agents, particularly in the US where college admissions officers are deeply divided over their use. Earlier this year, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) considered barring its members from using commission-based recruiters abroad, although it has since called for a two-year moratorium on the issue while a NACAC-appointed commission further considers the role that education agencies play in the industry.
“No matter the controversy, the fact that education agents have become a global industry is undeniable,” said Elizabeth Shepherd, Research Manager at the British Council’s Education Intelligence unit. “We must step away from the debate and understand how differently prospective students and their parents view agents, depending on where in the world they live.”
Overall, Why Students Use Agents offers an invaluable snapshot of the fragmented agent industry worldwide. East Asian students were found to be most likely to use an agent with 48% saying they had contacted or planned to contact an agent in the past, followed by African students (41%), South Asian (39%) and Latin American (30%).
Students from Europe, Latin America and China were said to use agents primarily for information on foreign institutions, while in India and Africa advice on obtaining a visa was most important. The report also identified a growing need across the group for help with visas and applications, reflecting the tightening of immigration policies in the UK, US and Australia over the past few years.
NOW TO THE WELL PUBLICISED AUSTRALIAN KNIGHT REPORT:
Some excerpts from the report… (Full report on http://www.immi.gov.au/students/knight/ )
- This is not to say that these agents were necessarily acting unlawfully or that many agents do not give genuine assistance to students and education providers. The point is, if the conditions are created for some agents to act opportunistically, they will do so.
- If DIAC retains the requirement that all AL2‐4 applicants who apply online must use a registered agent, this could go some way towards monitoring and controlling the conduct of these agents.
- Just as there is a variety of agents, there is also a variety of attitudes to them. These attitudes fall into three broad categories: ignore them; license and empower them; work cooperatively with agents but informally rather than formally. My own attitude broadly falls between the second and third categories.
- While some education providers are moving in the direction of less reliance on agents, they continue to be a fact of life. And, in many cases, they play a very positive role. I do not consider refusing to engage with agents to be a viable option for DIAC.
- I support the promotion of agent professionalism and self‐regulation by requiring providers to only use education agents who:
- belong to a professional association where one exists;
- have completed an appropriate training course; and
- comply with their home country requirements.
While Agents are indeed critical and here to stay, we need to move away from the debate on whether agents are required. The experts who have been arguing for a ban on use of agents need to study the British Council and Australia’s Knight reports carefully. The strategy should be more towards…