As more and more countries race to develop their knowledge economies, internationalise their education sectors, and encourage their young citizens to study abroad, the role of international education agents has never been more important – or scrutinised.
Growing numbers of students across the world are relying on international education agents to help them with their study abroad ambitions, but government and university policy on agents is variable in leading destination countries.
In the US, opinion is more divided and NACAC, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, is currently deliberating what its policy will be on how its members engage with international agents.
Central to any question how to work with international agents – or any international partners, for that matter – are issues of ethics and professionalism. Those concerned with the sustainable and responsible growth of international education sectors within a country need to ensure that:
- Foreign students coming into their country are coming as genuine students and are adequately qualified for the courses or programmes they enrol in.
- Agents put students’ needs first and foremost and do not compromise students’ or institutions’ interests due to monetary incentives.
The most serious and successful international agents working today are well aware of the need to distinguish themselves as reliable, effective, and student-focused professionals in their sector, and there is an increasing range of ways in which agents demonstrate their credentials and qualifications today.
At one end of the scale are codes of conduct or standards of practice established by industry associations (or even governments as in the case of the London Statement).
At the other end of the continuum are robust accreditation or certification schemes, such as the process established by the American International Recruitment Council (AIRC).
Increasingly, however, professional development and/or certification courses also play an important part in reinforcing or establishing an agency’s credibility in the marketplace.
The following summary profiles some of the more established or successful training courses in order to illustrate the increasing field of professional development options available to international education agents.
The IATC is a professional training course open to agents operating anywhere in the world focusing on any destination market. It provides:
- An understanding of the overall international education market and the main destination countries for international students;
- The skills and research parameters to analyse destination countries and their education products and processes;
- The functional dynamics of dealing with students, education institutions, and governments.
The course covers three areas:
- The Context of International Education: Destination countries, education systems, legal requirements, and visas.
- The People in International Education: Students, education institutions’ personnel, and immigration authorities.
- Promoting International Education: Working effectively, marketing, and ethics.
The IATC is delivered online free of charge. Related testing and assessment sessions take place at ICEF Workshops and in conjunction with selected industry events and locations around the world.
Participants who complete the IATC assessment successfully are issued with a certificate, certifying them as ICEF Trained Agent Counsellors (ITAC).
This course is designed to:
- Provide education agents with information about the Australian education system and Australia as a study destination, education quality assurance issues, and the Australian visa regulation system;
- Keep agents abreast of changes and developments in international education services;
- Encourage and support excellence in business service delivery, study and career pathways, and professional development.
Registration is free of charge and the course is delivered online. Those wishing to become Qualified Education Agent Counsellors need to undertake the Formal Assessment of the Education Agent Training Course.
Agents can currently take the formal assessment test in Australia (Adelaide, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney) and several locations around the globe: Dubai, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Sri Lanka, South America, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. The exam is also offered in conjunction with selected ICEF Workshops around the world.
Education agents who have successfully completed the EATC formal assessment are listed as Qualified Education Agent Counsellors.
Newly produced by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, in cooperation with CCIEM, ICEF and PIER, the Canada Course equips international agents with accurate and current information about the Canadian education system and how to choose a study programme in Canada.
The course is available online and is delivered free of charge in a self-paced format. Agents can then take the Canada Course examination that will be available soon at ICEF conferences or related international education events.
If they complete the examination successfully, they will be identified by ICEF in an online listing of agents who have successfully completed the course and examination.
The Canadian government notes, “Completing the Canada Course is an important component of agents being viewed in a positive light by Canadian institutions and international students.”
The Canada Course provides agents with:
- An understanding of why Canada is one of the top study destinations in the world;
- An overview of the study options available in Canada, including examples of flexibility within the higher education system between programmes and institutions;
- Information about how to apply to study, as well as costs and scholarships;
- Tips about how to best prepare for living and studying in Canada.
To be accredited as a New Zealand Specialist Agent, agents undertake training by Education New Zealand and are then tested accordingly.
Specialist agents are then required to follow Education New Zealand’s Code of Conduct for specialist agents and adhere to the policies and procedures of Education New Zealand and the New Zealand Ministry of Education Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students.
New Zealand Specialist Education Agents are recognised by Education New Zealand, New Zealand government agencies, and education institutions, which take the designation as a credible demonstration of knowledge about New Zealand education and commitment to an ethical agent code of conduct.
The British Council has designed a certificated online course for agents by the British Council. This global training programme is delivered and managed in-country. The purpose of the course is to:
- Develop agents’ capacity to work effectively with UK institutions;
- Improve knowledge and understanding of the UK as a study destination;
- Increase knowledge of UK study programmes;
- Enable agents/representatives to provide high quality information, resources, and services to students seeking an international education;
- Provide agents/representatives with the skills and resources needed to provide relevant, accurate and trustworthy information.
The course is delivered online over a period of eight weeks. Candidates complete online assessment following each unit and the course culminates in a final (written) formal assessment conducted under exam conditions at the local British Council office.
Please contact the British Council for further details.