The British Council has launched a new online list of specially trained education agents around the world. The aim is to increase the number, effectiveness and quality of agents working on behalf of UK schools, colleges, language centres and universities and to build agent capacity and professionalism in an industry that plays a key role in the multi-billion dollar worldwide international student recruitment market.
For the first time, UK education institutions will have access to an exclusive database of agents around the world who have taken the British Council’s training, signed up to an ethical code of practice, and who are committed to undertake a new advanced programme of continual assessment.
The UK is the most popular destination in the world for new international higher education students, with 488,380 students (333,995 non-EU) international students enrolled on higher education courses at UK universities and colleges in 2011/12. British Council research recently forecast that that total number could rise by 126,000 international students by 2024.
In certain countries, particularly in South and East Asia, a vast industry of Education Agents has grown to support the hundreds of thousands of ambitious young people interested in studying abroad. Agencies offer advisory services to young people and their families, and also offer services to higher education institutions in Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to help them recruit potential students. Agencies can charge fees to both institutions and students. In 2010-11, an investigation found that UK universities spent almost £60m on agents fees, for their services in the recruitment of more than 50,000 international students.*
The new British Council database aims to address the growth in popularity of agents by providing for institutions a list of agents that have adopted the practices enshrined in the 2011 ‘London Statement’ of ethical principles, and have agreed to periodical assessment by the British Council in how they respect those principals. This builds on the existing foundation training programme for agents that the British Council has been successfully offering since 2006, developed in collaboration with the UK sector.
Kevin Van-Cauter, British Council International Higher Education Advisor, said “We do not accredit education agents or agencies but we hope the global trained agents database and roll-out of the advanced training will add greater assurance to institutions that they are getting the best possible services when it comes to international student recruitment, and therefore assurance to students that they will be accessing the best possible advice. For agents this is an opportunity to gain more skills and thus have a competitive advantage over competitors – it’s a win win win scenario.”
“International students make a tremendous academic, cultural and economic contribution to the UK, and our research suggests that the number of mobile students globally will continue to grow over the next decade – making the need for better quality agents who support that mobility process greater than ever. This is a tool that will help UK institutions to find agents who have developed a great understanding of the UK's education system and who have shown they are committed to improving their knowledge - this in turn helps make sure that they offer sound advice to students, and that they promote the benefits of a UK education” Van-Cauter added.