dents coming from some countries, such as
Colombia or Italy, parents prefer to deal with a
local agent rather than a university representative in Canada, he added.
But there can be risks, too, said the report.
With overseas agents located far from the partner
institution in Canada, oversight can be difficult.
There is a risk the agents will place their own
financial interests ahead of the needs of students
and institutions or will jeopardize a school’s reputation by providing misleading information, the
study said. There have been reports of agents
colluding with students to falsify documents or
to ghostwrite essays and personal statements.
Mr. Coffey said some administrators told him
they’ve worked with the same trusted agent for
many years and had few concerns about the institution being “credibly and accurately” represented.
But he also has heard of agents who are “basically
travel agents” and he met some foreign students
who hadn’t been well served. “It’s really quite a
rough-and-tumble environment,” said Mr. Coffey.
“There’s going to be fantastic agents, average
agents and not-so-good agents,” added CBU’s Mr.
MacLean. CBU’s process for vetting consultants
involves asking new or prospective recruiters to
provide at least two references, who are sent a
questionnaire about their experiences. “I got one
back this morning from someone who gave a
scathing report,” he said. CBU maintains regular
contact with its agents and keeps them up-to-date
on program and course changes.
Still, Mr. MacLean acknowledged some
inherent biases in the system. Because individual
recruiters tend to represent only a few universities, they may not give prospective students a full
range of options. Also, agents are usually paid on
commission so if a school pays a smaller fee, the
agent may be inclined to recommend a higher-paying one.
According to the CMEC report, the agent’s
commission is usually set as a percentage of a
student’s first-year tuition. The rates vary by institution and by country. In some countries, including China, it’s common for agents to charge
students as well. Mr. MacLean said CBU asks its
agents not to do so.
A new report by the Observatory on Border-
less Higher Education (due for release Sept. 2)
compared agent use in seven countries. It found
that using agents leads to higher foreign student
registration – especially for Canada. However,
Richard Garrett, OBHE’s director for North
America, cautioned that comparing “conversion
rates” (from prospects making an inquiry to
registering as students) is challenging because
institutions may use varied methodologies and
interpret results differently. The OBHE report
notes that the Canadian sample of 37 institutions
was dominated by colleges and universities out-
side the U15 group of research-intensive univer-
sities. It said, “It is striking that all the Canadian
research-intensive, public universities that res-
ponded indicated no use of agents.”
In Canada, there aren’t any federal laws reg-
ulating the use of foreign recruiters. The Depart-
ment of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development
along with the Canadian Consortium for Inter-
national Education recently introduced a free,
China, South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia,
Hong Kong and India.
“You can’t be everywhere at once,” explained
Brett MacLean, manager of international recruitment at Cape Breton University. “When we leave
[a country] we still want to have a representative
on the ground that is distributing literature and
giving advice on our programs.” CBU uses about
50 agents in 30 countries. Some are relied on more
than others but, to be transparent, CBU discloses
the total number, he said.
Agents are also familiar with a country’s local
customs and traditions and are able to translate
documents and help students with the application process. “They are the trusted organization
of students and their parents,” said Gonzalo Peralta, executive director of Languages Canada.
“Imagine if you had a child who wanted to go to
study in China. How do you find the right institution and deal with somebody thousands of
miles away to make the arrangements?” For stu-
CAGS 52nd Annual Conference
52e congrès annuel de l’ACES
October 27-30, 2014/Du 27 au 30 octobre 2014
Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland
St. John’s, Newfoundland/St-John’s, Terre-Neuve
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