Thursday, December 1, 2011

New Study from the British Council's Education Intelligence Service Examines Global Agent use in International Higher Education

Student Insight: Why Students Use Agents” focuses on how students around the world view education agents when pursuing overseas study, and how expectations for services vary from region to region

Why do international students use education agents when making the decision to study overseas? What are the services they seek and what are the informational needs that are currently going unmet? The boom in international higher education has prompted increased demand for education agents, and the nature of that demand is studied in a report by Education Intelligence, the British Council’s global service.

Student Insight: Why Students Use Agents – Demand and Supply examines the global use of education agents through the perspective of prospective students who seek professional advice and guidance when considering overseas study. Without a doubt, the role of agents is controversial -- some in the international education sector view agents as neutral advisors while others see them as profit-seeking middlemen. However, despite the pros and cons, there is value in simply understanding the geographic nuances behind what is being mistakenly viewed as a monolithic trend.

“No matter the controversy, the fact that education agents have become a global industry is undeniable,” says Elizabeth Shepherd, Research Manager at Education Intelligence and author of the report. “We must step away from the debate and understand how differently prospective students and their parents view agents, depending on where in the world they live.”

Some highlights from Student Insight: Why Students Use Agents:

· Due to a lack of reliable internet access, African students may pursue an agent’s services simply to get information
· In South Asia, the service most sought after from agents is information on obtaining a visa
· Europe shows the lowest percentage of respondents who might use agents, likely due to relative standardization of education environment
· In China, foundation course and English language students are more likely to use agents
· Indian students who have previously studied overseas are less likely to use an education agent
· Students interviewed in Beijing viewed agents as responsible and quick to react
· In Guangzhou, students interviewed said agents did not provide adequate information on the visa application process

STUDENT INSIGHT is a series of research reports produced by Education Intelligence which provides an unprecedented look into the process of a student’s decision-making based on data collected from 130,000 prospective student survey responses around the world over the past four years.

Student Insight: Agents, as well country-specific reports, are available for purchase via the Education Intelligence website at:


  1. Agents for education purposes seems like a good resource for students who need a seond person to guide them. How does a student go about finding an agent? Who are agents?

  2. Hello

    It seems that there is a market which seeks out the educational agents and their knowledge. Would you (or anyone) happen to know if the agents really make a positive difference in the lives and experiences of the students who seek assistance from them?

  3. @canji ~ Thanks for your comment and question. I don't know enough about agents to full answer. I've been following the debate with interest and look forward to more discussions to come. Anyone visiting her on IHEC Blog have insight? I will also post your question to IHEC Blog's Facebook page ( and direct any potential respondents to leave a comment over at this post.

  4. Via @ThePIENews on Twitter: US opinion of agents? Jim Miller, President of @NACAC, interviewed in this week's PIE Chat,

  5. I am unclear about why one would be suspicious or perhaps doubtful about the value and/or motivation of an agent. I imagine them as individuals that fill an unmet need as suggested in the initial post. There has to be a market for their services-- on the order of a personal coach, mentor or guidance counselor. If however, there are specious aspects to their "profession", such as, over promising and under delivering on whatever services they offer—all bets are off. As I think more about it—the word "agent" might be the reason for suspicion—as in "secret agent"

  6. @Valerie ~ An interesting development in the U.S. that might be of interest to you:

    "NACAC Announces Members of Commission on International Student Recruitment"

  7. David, Canji and Valarie,
    Hi,your posts are very interesting.For example, an agent for American universities in Beirut, Lebanon my home country provides students with information about how to get a student visa, the application requirement of each university, when to apply, and general information on the town or city where the university is located.Agents usually provide these services for a certain fee that depends on the services they provide.Valarie, to answer your question, not all agents are honest.Some tend to prolong the time for application and registration just to get more money from customers.