As well as realizing
greater marketing efficiencies and cost-effectiveness, there are many other
advantages of outsourcing student recruitment to education agents:
Over 30% of
Institutions in the United States, 70% of Canadian and almost all UK
universities use agents- for universities, colleges and schools around the world
using agents has become standard practise.
provide useful value-added services to students. For instance,
they can help with student application forms, taking care of
travel arrangements, insurance, accommodation or exam
The agent contribution in
information transmission and help with processing is considered
especially important during the visa acquisition. All the
aspects covered above, such as language proficiency and cultural
interpretation, are involved in assisting students through this
essential phase. There is considerable unanimity among the
institutions as to the benefits the agents bring to this- There
are questions that an agent can answer- how difficult is it to
get a visa in Nigeria or Mexico? for example.
assistance: If a visa is needed it is usually easier for the
agent to apply to the respective consul section, as they will
likely have developed a good rapport and reputation with the
relevant visa office. They can help students fill in application
forms and guide them through the interview process.
also give valuable counselling, saving students “time and
helping them make their decision by providing useful information
(e.g., about the study location, local transport, the cost of
living, weather, social etiquette, cultural and social life,
large, dynamic, difficult and competitive agents are vital not only for
universities but also smaller colleges and schools who don't necessarily have to
resources to target a large number of countries.
Those who manage
budgets for international recruitment are conscious of the size of agent
commission and the proportion of the budget so expended; but they are also
conscious of the fee income produced and its contribution to overall student
and schools use agents both because of their strategic commitment to
international student recruitment and because of the distinctive roles and
functions of agents. The former relates to the need for increasing numbers as
well as the desire for the diversity international students bring to the
The benefits of
recruiting students from a wider range of countries, partly to decrease
dependence on one or two major ‘Providers’ and so reduce risk, and partly,
perhaps as a more enlightened vision, to ensure a strong mix of cultures and
nationalities within the institution's community.
The community of
international students is seen as important as the number recruited.
Agents offer diversity of community as well as
discipline and can be used to enhance recruitment to one discipline over
Low Financial Risk
usually paid between 2.5 and 15% usually on a commission only basis- whilst
agreements may be made to support agents with marketing and other costs there
remains little financial risk.
There's no limit to
the number of agents and countries you can recruit from- if they a good working
relationship is in place institutions are relieved of the necessity to visit
every country you recruit from.
Agents are almost
always happy to expand the range of options they can provide to their students
so are keen to make partnerships with institutions around the world.
Rather than inundated
with enquiries and applications institutions can use Agents as a buffer to
ensure the best quality applicants- agents are readily able to identify
applicants that will be more suitable candidates.
particularly useful in 'lesser known' markets
Agents help to
establish an institution where there was previously little or no representation.
When considering new market entry the lesser known markets were believed to be
more dependent on agent support.
Institutions become more confident
and competent in establishing themselves in a new market having benefited
previously from agent involvement.
Some institutions were not totally
convinced of the advantage of using agents, or believed that agents were only
useful in some countries, and at some stages of institutional market
development. Examples of the former were Indonesia where potential students were
spread across a huge land mass in contrast to Singapore which was considered
more manageable. In addition, in this case, UK universities had long experience
of Singapore and its students and mores, as the British Council had opened one
of its first three specific recruitment offices there in the early 1980’s.
institutions it is easier to get the funding to pay the commission on increased
numbers – post hoc, rather than to bid for increased staff or marketing spend,
which appeared to have less certain outcomes.
One of the
reasons for engaging agents is to increase the student registrations and
applicant satisfaction, and to release staff time to pursue other international
marketing activities and to make the marketing budget stretch more effectively.
were always mentioned in the context of income there was a view that they could
provide access to networks and allowed a spread of effort without the
institution being committed to expending too much time and energy in less
even temporary home based staff together with travel costs and overseas visit
arrangements especially in high expenditure countries such as Japan and South
American countries would need to be, in the view of many of the respondents,
considerably increased if agents could not cover the regions required. This was
particularly stressed as important in emerging markets where the institution had
a history of small numbers of candidates and countries where large landmass had
to be covered. Of these it was said, "The cost of going there is so high and
the return on investment is not there".
knowledge and cultural bridges
some reliance on the additional knowledge and competence in the language of the
country that agents could offer, and examples were given of setting up first
language web sites and booking rooms for interviews and organising local events.
Talking to student families and sponsors was also a consideration. This key
contact with families and the society from which the student came built on "a
wealth of local knowledge, expertise, and cultural expertise…building links"
was quoted as a significant benefit by several universities.
knowledge incorporates basic explanations of culture and custom and specific
information about educational qualifications, the reputation and ranking of the
institutions, and subject specialities and strengths. This is data that can
often be found on websites but is more effectively conveyed face to face in
country. It helps universities make the right level of offer. They also have the
experience to discuss trends and past data and changes. So
"building up a kind of picture of the new market will be of extra
There is expectation that agents
will be market aware and conduits of information and networks.
"They’re kind of like our eyes in
the market and they keep in touch with us in the development phases."
the national culture of some of the
larger countries like India, Indonesia and China can be partially understood by
the British traveller, the regional culture and dialects need the presence of a
People would like to talk to
people from their own province, work with an agent who understands the dialect
"There are so many different sides
of China. There are so many second and third tier cities. People would like to
talk to people from their own province, work with an agent who understands the
In the same way India presents an
issue and agents are seen to be able to
"…reach parts of countries that we
might not be able to".
"They’ve got a wealth of local
knowledge, expertise, and cultural experience."
It is believed that well-chosen agents can also
"tap into student markets that we wouldn’t get access to otherwise".
Language needs more interpretation than simple translation in many countries and
the successful agent can manage the dialogue and the intercultural interaction.
to have an agent to negotiate with that culture
in the research also identified the importance of connectivity and the
networking that agents were able to provide. They identified contacts in local
schools and universities and they "knew which kind of universities to target
as well". They make introductions, help to build partnerships with
appropriate institutions and help to search out sponsors "particularly at
postgraduate level". Some of the examples of this provided by the
universities are "contacts with scholarship agencies, with the Ministry of
Education people…and with school councillors". Others have provided
networking opportunities "with appropriate business people". They will
have the knowledge of the people to meet, and of the influencers, sponsors and
stakeholders. Such networking generally is most effective in smaller countries
or communities where a well-placed agent can be connected to, and known by, a
high proportion of the community.
managed successfully do not simply recruit students to the institution but also
raise the brand image of the institution, and possibly the UK, make a positive
impression on the market, meet a need that students and parents express and
further the reputation and the contacts of the institution in that area. All of
these tasks might be achieved by UK representatives but as previously mentioned
time, resource and opportunity cost do not allow that in a number of
institutions and importantly the good agent brings additional value to the
more than a commodity to be sold for a price, it is a contract between parties
of an especially sensitive and precious nature. Parents are particularly aware
of this. Certain students might, in some countries not yet exposed to
westernized culture, be more needful of help and support in making an
application. The role of the agent is especially valued by parents-
They can see in person,
speak to a real person and that can be a bit more reassuring- it could be their
first time sending children away from home- it’s a big for them.
culture of some countries working with agency services is seen as the proper way
of undertaking transactions and, therefore, more acceptable and more reliable.
In certain countries students will only want to be advised by agents
The role of
go between or conduit is much appreciated by the parents who often feel that the
agent offers a reassurance and is someone who can be in touch with the
institution, if anything goes wrong. The constant presence which an agent could
provide is well recognised by most institutions. "It’s about that continuity,
having some presence there when children have left the country- an agent can
provide a continuous service all the way through.
They are thought to
add particular value to the lesser-known institutions in this way as, by helping
to recruit the first of the students they assist the work of word of mouth and
become a conduit for stories of satisfaction from the students recruited through
Agents can ensure that students of the right
quality in terms of screening students. This ‘sifting’ is time saving for
could identify fraud, identification of fraudulent documents and applications.
Collection of deposits
can also be managed by the agents in country provided they understand the
regulations and code of conduct for doing so.
If staff are visiting a country Agents can offer
help with travel, local knowledge for making arrangements, assistance in a
crisis like "loss of wallet and passport", reassurance in countries where
there are real safety issues and genuine friendly support.
also provide services which the less well-resourced institutions find especially
helpful in their ability and willingness to set up meetings and assist with
alumni activity. Agents can help organise alumni gatherings and relationships,
arranging meetings with universities, sponsors and schools well in advance of
the institutional visit
Institutions are helped by the free-flow of
information from agents and can get a better awareness of what others in the
market are offering or what applicants find desirable.
more familiar with the systems that institutions set up and the problems that
can occur. While students may not feel they are in a position to make requests
to the universities, colleges or schools directly, agents certainly do and can
sort out issues such as letters or documents that are missing and help
speed up the process.
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