Best practices for managing a sub-agent network in Russia

Insight Lingua is one of Russia’s leading education abroad agencies and, with a network of ~500 sub-agencies throughout Russia and other countries of the former USSR, its reach is impressive. We had a chance to sit down with Managing Director Anastassia Romanenko recently to discuss current trends in the Russian market, the types of courses Russian students are looking for, as well as best practices for managing a large sub-agent network.

While there are major moves afoot in Russia to strengthen the country’s higher education system, demand for study abroad remains strong. We begin our conversation with some general background on the Russian market, and touch on some of the key areas of demand.

Ms Romanenko stresses the importance of an institution’s reputation and the quality of degree programmes for Russian students, along with opportunities for students to work during their time abroad.

She also notes that many Russian students prefer to pursue graduate studies immediately after completing their undergraduate degrees, and that demand for language studies – English certainly but other languages as well – remains very strong.

As the largest country in the world, finding the right student-institution match is challenging, so crafting a strategy as defined by geography, degree and price is essential. Ms Romanenko explains:

“You will find that different areas and regions in Russia have different student profiles… There are universities that you cannot sell in Moscow, but they will find their students in other regions in Russia.”

A look inside a large sub-agent network in Russia

Insight Lingua works with a network of approximately 500 sub-agents, reflecting both the large geographic market but also an important structure for adapting to the nuances of varying demand in different regions of the country.

Ms Romanenko notes that the bulk of this large network is made up of travel agents handling relatively small student volumes per office and mainly focused on language programmes.

A smaller group of Insight Lingua sub-agents – designated by region – operates at a different level, handling much higher volumes of students and advising on more complex programmes abroad. These agencies are also the beneficiaries of more advanced training and other supports, delivered at Insight Lingua’s head office in Moscow (or at their branch offices in St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad) and remotely via webinars or other online tools.

Ms Romanenko stresses the importance of this ongoing training and other agent supports in our second interview segment.

As we noted in a previous post on sub-agent networks, the main advantages of the sub-agent model for institutions include:

  • Larger agencies have the resources to invest in admissions systems to manage student applications;
  • They act as a quality control filter, choosing to work with only the most reputable smaller agencies;
  • They provide marketing information to sub-agents so they can promote the schools effectively;
  • They provide training to the sub-agents, so schools only need to train the main agency once, and they subsequently train the other partners;
  • Large agencies drive markets and are at the forefront of industry trends;
  • The sub-agent model creates time, resource, and cost efficiencies in planning and execution.

Agent support 24/7

Our interview with Ms Romanenko closes on the lighter side with a couple of true stories from the frontlines of student advising. Have you ever had to pick up a student from school in the middle of the night?

For more on working with sub-agent networks, please see “Sub-agent model offers strong benefits for agents and institutions alike.”



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