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28th Jan 2013

Measuring student and agent performance

Nearly 200 delegates from around the world attended the fourth annual conference of the American International Recruitment Council (AIRC) last month in Miami. The event featured several workshops covering a broad range of topics on policy, recruitment solutions, and technology. Among these was an insightful seminar on measuring and evaluating both agency and student performance given by Mr Ross Jennings, associate vice president of Green River Community College in Auburn, Washington, USA. Mr Jennings opened by stating that schools and agents share the same priorities: strong enrolment and graduation figures, quality programmes, successful students (both academically and emotionally), satisfied parents, healthy ROI (return on investment), and a sustainable business model upon which to grow. He also noted two essential elements for institutions and recruitment agencies pursuing these goals: sound processes for measuring results and a commitment to continuous improvement. In terms of student performance, there are any number of objective measures available to educators and agents, including:

  • Median GPA (grand point average)
  • English language exam scores (i.e., IELTs or TOEFL)
  • Academic programme and/or major
  • Scholarships, grants or bursaries
  • Persistence (i.e., how long do students stay with the school/graduate? Stay in country? Is this an immigration route?)
  • Employment post-graduation

Student populations can also be segmented to allow more extensive comparison and benchmarking across a range of evaluation measures. For example, cross-tabulating median GPA scores with additional values such as country of origin or major. And of course any such measures can also be tracked over time to better observe year-over-year changes or multi-year patterns. There may also be experiential or engagement factors that could play a part in evaluating student performance. For example, if your institution has implemented a student mentor or buddy system, you could evaluate incoming international student success based on whether or not they are participating in the programme, or based on whether or not their buddy is from the same background or of the same gender (since often, these similarities enable students to better relate to one another, and hence, produce better results). Furthermore, another differentiating factor of the programme's success could be whether or not the mentor writes a mid-term report, which is given to parents and agents.

Agency success

There are a number of considerations and options for institutions in establishing a framework for evaluating agent performance. As with student performance, there are a number of objectively measurable characteristics that can help assess an individual agency. For example:

  • Number of students referred
  • Yield – number of applications vs. number of enrolments
  • Student feedback
  • Industry accreditation or association membership(s)
  • Return on direct investment

Once such elements are being reliably tracked within an agent evaluation framework, institutions are better able to observe patterns for individual agencies. Similarly, it becomes easier to correlate agency performance with student performance factors to observe relationships between the two – for example, agencies that referred several students who didn’t adjust well or didn’t perform well academically or, conversely, an agency whose students consistently perform at a high academic standard. On the qualitative side, providers can also assess agencies based on their readiness to participate in familiarisation tours and in comparable institution-initiated or cooperative promotional ventures.

Gathering data and feedback

Evaluative data can be gathered via a wide variety of methods and data sources, such as:

  • Database, via a CRM system such as Salesforce or other purpose-built systems for the education sector
  • Focus groups
  • Surveys
  • Student networks such as sports, clubs or associations, global student ambassadors, and alumni
  • Informal student contact

Reliably and consistently tracking student and agent performance through such evaluative frameworks and tools opens up a range of opportunities for better planning as well as programme and process improvement. It allows institutions and agents to provide more effective instructional or support services for students, especially those who may be struggling. Such evaluative processes also allow for greater efficiency and targeting of resources across the recruitment effort, and even for improved messaging and brand development for institutions and agents alike. For example, close observation of student study and exit patterns may reveal new opportunities for additional academic or service programmes, while a similar attentiveness to agent performance will allow for more extensive evaluation of new agency relationships as well as a targeting of resources and marketing support to high-performance partners across an agent network. Do you have a formal framework in place for evaluating student or agent performance? If so, add your comments below to tell us what measures you find most valuable and how these have helped to improve either your student services or the efficiency of your recruitment efforts.

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