The study abroad market is undergoing a rapid change. There are more countries vying for international students these days as many countries that only sent students in the past now see themselves as study abroad destinations.
There’s little doubt that the competition among universities is bound to heat up in the coming years. And when that happens, the need for local Education Agents will grow even more.
At present, universities in Australia, the UK, the US and Canada lead the agent-driven recruitment of international students.
As per the International Student Survey conducted by the Australian government in 2014, 50% of international students in the country had relied on agents’ guidance. In 2012, only 44% had sought agents’ help while only 28% had done so in 2010. These figures show a huge growth in education agents’ influence on students who choose to study in Australia.
Likewise, several reports point out that over 92% of UK institutions work with agents. As per the recent Times Higher Education survey, of 158 UK higher education institutions, 139 use agents to enroll students from countries outside the European Union.
Although US colleges fall well behind those in other countries in using agents for recruiting students, the overall trend is still positive. According to i-Graduate, a consulting group, In 2007, only 4% of international students in the United States identified agents as having played a major role in their choice of college. By 2013, that figure increased to 28%. But these are figures from US colleges and they do not take into account agents engaged by prospective international students and their families.
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A research conducted by the British Council a few years ago on 90,000 prospective international students found that 40% of prospective students considering studying in the UK have used or planned to use the services of an education agent. The study found the use of Agents to be very high in China (45%), India (43%) and in Nigeria (30%).
The findings of the International Student Survey 2014, carried out by the Australian government, are also in favor of Agents.
When asked about the quality of service provided by agents, 90% of the international students rated the service they received as good; 93% agreed that the agent provided helpful services for a visa application and 90% agreed that the agent was well informed about higher education in Australia.
Likewise, 88% agreed that the agent reduced time and effort needed to complete an application and 80% agreed that the agent provided helpful pre-departure orientation services.
These data make it very clear that both universities and students are highly supportive of the idea of engaging agents.
The reasons for using agents are clear. Agents are useful in many ways. They guide prospective students on where to apply, help them complete applications and craft statements of interest. Many education agents also organize English language classes and conduct mock tests to help prospective students meet language requirements. Some even take care of flight and lodging arrangements, and provide career guidance and job placement services after their client return home.
As the higher education market becomes more competitive, universities around the world are more likely to depend on Education Agents to bolster their recruitment efforts.
Agents not only help universities meet their enrollment targets but also help them gain foothold and familiarity in markets not directly accessible to them. Agents help universities identify target markets, spread awareness about their programs, screen applicants and their documents as well as collect tuition fees on their behalf.
Universities need local expertise to compete with domestic or regional rivals. They also need local presence to find and establish their bases in new markets. Having local partners in source countries helps them maintain visibility of their brand and conduct outreach activities at a fraction of a cost.
But the most simple answer as to why use of agents is certain to grow is surprisingly simple: a growing number of prospective students and their families believe using agents is not only normal but necessary.