The pandemic has redefined a number of aspects of international education and this includes the role played by overseas education counselors and recruitment agents in helping students make the right decision. Recent surveys and market research have revealed that more students are considering travelling abroad for higher studies and they are relying more on agents and counselors.
A study by industry body Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) suggests that by 2030, the number of college-age Indians is projected to reach 400 million. This will have an impact on the number of students planning to travel abroad for higher studies.
- A recent report from QS shows that international students are “relying more than ever on agents in their decision-making about study abroad”
- The proportion of prospective students who had used an agent between 2020 and 2021 rose from 16% to 23%
- As per a report by Agent Bee, agents usually account for nearly half of international student referrals for top study destinations
Pandemic Fuelled Demand For Agents And Counselors
Students are more dependent on counselors and agents to help them with information and guidance on factors such as visa processing, public health regulations in different countries, travel restrictions, and testing services.
A recent report from QS, which publishes world university rankings annually, shows that international students are “relying more than ever on agents in their decision-making about study abroad.”
Titled How to Navigate the Challenges of Agent Management in 2021, the report predicts that the whole “recruitment landscape going into next year is much different than it ever has been.” A major finding from the QS research is that agents can give a huge impetus to the efforts of institutions to attract students as they navigate the challenges and uncertainties of the pandemic.
Alex Berka, Head of Insights, QS, says, “The proportion of prospective students who had used an agent between 2020 and 2021 rose from 16% to 23% but the proportion who were planning to use one, fell from 24% to 17%, which suggests the pandemic accelerated the plans of candidates who intended to use agents and that they involved them sooner in the process.”
The 2020 edition of the survey also states that 65% of prospective students surveyed found agents to be useful in helping them study overseas. They also saw the agents as a trusted source of information.
As per a report by Agent Bee, agents usually account for nearly half of international student referrals for top study destinations.
How The Role Of Counselors Has Evolved
Experts believe that while the counselor’s role has not really changed over the last few years, the way students discover them and interact with them surely has.
According to Tumul Buch, co-founder, Yocket Study Abroad, “A counselor’s core function still remains guidance, but with the rise of edtech in this industry, many of them are also using a suite of tools to make better decisions for their students. Traditional in-office counseling is being replaced with online counseling. This transition is further accelerated by the pandemic.”
While the counselors do influence a student’s decision to get into a particular course, university or country, whether to go abroad or not is a decision the student has already made in his/her mind long before they walk into a counselor’s office, adds Buch.
Universities Bet On Agents And Counselors Too
It is not just the students who benefit from the services of counselors and agents. Universities are actively engaging with them too to boost their international student numbers. The National Association for College Admission Counseling and the American International Recruitment Council in a 2021 survey found that about 49% of US colleges are currently partnered with education agents. Additionally, 5% were actively exploring agent partnerships post COVID-19. This is an increase from 2017-18 when more than 36% of US colleges reported recruiting through agents.
Australian and UK universities are known to take help from agents and counselors when it comes to enrolling international students. Canadian higher education institutions, too, actively engage with agents with close to 50% of all overseas students in the country being agent referred.
Choosing The Right Counselor
The entire journey - from selecting a college, country and course, to finishing a degree and looking for work opportunities is an exhaustive process for students who often rely on counselors and agents for support and advice.
While many students check their reputation which can be done by reading reviews and ratings online, they can also look at the experience and qualifications of a counselor and by checking the admits and testimonials of their students. “Students should also check what all things are included in their offerings - how many applications, how many destinations, partner vs non-partner applications, how many consultations are included, among other things. Online or offline is another parameter that you may want to consider. There are many dubious agents out there, especially in certain pockets of the country - so definitely beware of them,” advises Buch.