Hey Education Agents! It’s been 30 years, we gotta talk!
We are coming up to the 30th anniversary of international students being able to gain study visas in Australia (1988) and for too long the education agent has been the hidden force of the international education growth that Australia has experienced. Australia is the biggest user of education agents yet education agents are probably the least consulted group by the government and industry. The view of education agents by providers ranges from trusted business partner to a tolerated business necessity. The time has come for a more mature conversation about the role of education agents in international education in Australia.
The new provisions in the regulations will see the first sign of a direct regulatory oversight of agents. The Department of Education and Training (DET) is putting the industry on notice making it compulsory to put the education agent’s name on the Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE). The data of CoE completions will be available to providers but with provisions to publish directly to the public. Is the data on 1st CoE completions actually relevant to agent’s quality? DET already says that 85% of the students actually do complete their first CoE and an offshore agent, in most cases, has no real control over a student after arrival.
The current system of the education provider being the monitor of the agent is flawed at best – especially in the lower fee VET and ELICOS colleges. Colleges are paying (and some agents demanding) up to 40% commissions and quality is suffering as a result. The education agent must start to take an active role in the leadership of the international education industry and government and providers should allow participation of agents in forums on the direction of regulation and marketing of the Australian international education offering.
Large commissions allow discounting and enticing students to move providers and cheapening the view Australian education. So does the tail wag the dog? Do some agents now have so much ‘buying power’ that they influence provider decisions? The balance should be restored so that agents are acknowledged as a vital part of the international export market but have the responsibility to work in the best interests of Australian providers.
The first symposium for education agents is being held at Sydney Town Hall September 18 www.sympled.com.au