Stephen Spriggs, Managing Director, William Clarence Education

I’m disturbed to hear of a dishonest and exploitative practice affecting further education right now.

Independent schools and universities who rely on international students to fill their classrooms and lecture halls are paying astonishing rates of commission to international education agencies, who put their thirst for profit ahead of any wellbeing for the students or the institutions they serve.

Money changing hands for pupil placement is nothing new. Education is a business just like any other and an element of recruitment takes place.

However, I’m concerned about the current issue of ‘commission creep’, which means the amounts agents are charging for good students (typically 10-20% of first year fees, which can be 6-8K) makes it unsustainable for institutions already operating on tight margins to pay and remain in profit. And yet they feel their hands are tied as vacancies cost money.

Science labs have to be state-of-the-art, music departments need to be well stocked. A lack of students can seriously dent the purse strings.

Unscrupulous agents target wealthy and naive parents, bamboozling them with poor advice and false reassurances while placing the child or young adult in a school or uni with the deepest pockets, irrespective of whether it’s a good fit or not. And when the youngster struggles to settle down and the parents decide to move them elsewhere, the vultures are back, hoping to earn commission a second time.

It is perfectly legal. In other industries, it would be outlawed but, bizarrely, not in education. And you can’t blame the parents, many of whom live abroad, have no understanding of the British education system and rely on these agents to be their conduits and represent their best interests.

Yet some agents have no relationship with the establishments they recommend and may not have visited or even spoken to them, aside from negotiating a lucrative commission. It’s a clear conflict of interests.

Paying agents commission is an expensive way of recruiting students, with many institutions spending 50-100k per year on fees. According to the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, almost 40% of international students are recruited by agents. And it’s a growing business.

A survey by ICEF (International Consultants for Education and Fairs) in November 2018 found that of the 1,300 agents asked, between 74% and 84% expected to place more students in 2019 than they did in 2018.

Yet there are more effective ways of recruiting. Increase branding, locally and abroad so parents and pupils are better informed about what the schools and unis have to offer; establish and nurture relationships with international partners so there is a more meaningful connection and recruitment isn’t just a sales transaction. Schools and unis also need to narrow down their student profile so they know the kind of people they’re looking for.

Right now there is a scattergun approach with places sold to the highest bidder. Educational establishments, fearful of empty seats and conscious of a fragile economic climate, are being held to ransom by some agents, domestically and internationally.

Speaking anonymously to The PIE News (Professionals in International Education), one school said, ‘The dictating is very one way.’

Igor Mishurov, deputy director of Students International, a Russia-based agency, puts the blame on the competitive market as institutions ‘chase more clients’ and confirmed that his decisions were driven financially:

‘With one [school] offering 30% and another one 20%... what kind of choice should I make?’ Igor asked.

Fortunately, it is not a total sharkpit out there. There are many reputable education consultants, including my own – William Clarence – that are committed to providing transparent, impartial advice. They never ask for or accept commission from institutions for placing students with them. They have strong connections globally, are knowledgeable about the logistics of relocating and work closely with a range of schools and unis and know which people will thrive there. They appreciate that students are valued for their intellectual, cultural contribution and not just what they can offer financially.

But until this is the same for every agent or consultant, protections need to be put in place to safeguard institutions and students, as they are in Australia and New Zealand. In the UK, there is no such framework.

Each school and university has its own agencies and its own policies and thus it is open to abuse. In 2013, the British Council produced a report recommending more training for agents, an annual internal audit, taking legal advice prior to money exchanging hands and putting students first by ‘ensuring greater transparency’. Yet six years on and the problem is getting worse, not better.

Stephen Spriggs, Managing Director, William Clarence Education

Steve Spriggs Newsroom Strap

About William Clarence Education: The leading education advisory and consultancy service in the UK. With an unrivalled reach into the UK Schooling and University network, William Clarence offers unbiased advice to students and parents from around the world; at every stage of their academic journey.  From Independent School Application and Placement, full UCAS and University application consultancy, Oxbridge Applications  US College Admission and even Homeschooling programmes, William Clarence Education draws on a deep relationship driven network with schools, Universities and senior education figures within the industry.  By putting the student and family at the centre of the process, William Clarence ensures their clients reach their maximum potential and gain access to the very best of UK education.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page