Asked what the parliamentary group should say to the government, Bobby Mehta, deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Portsmouth and chairman of BUILA, said the “significant contribution” of agents, advisers and travel providers should be recognised.
Jacqui Jenkins, head of the global program for international student mobility at the British Council, agreed that agents should be included in the strategy, adding that the priority should be to “keep quality first” to promote the UK as study destination.
Jenkins told the group that although the British Council had experienced funding cuts, “huge amounts” of money were being invested in agents through the organisation’s new hub, which she described as a “one-stop shop” for anyone recruiting to the UK.
The center launched in December and allows agents to become certified after completing training, which Jenkins described as a “badge of good practice.”
“We want to ensure that agents and advisers are given the right information to provide a good service to that student, so students make an informed decision about the UK and we can meet their expectations,” Jenkins said.
There are approximately 10,000 agents on the platform and more than 1,000 of them have been certified.
Speakers highlighted the importance of agents to the entire student journey, with students often initially relying on agents to “cut through the noise” about study destinations, says Charley Robinson, head of global mobility policy at UUKi.
“The role of agent and advisor does not end the moment a student is enrolled”
She said agents can provide “useful insights, comparisons and objective perspectives on the relative characteristics and merits of universities and study destinations that students cannot easily obtain from universities directly or from families”.
“The role of an agent and advisor does not end when a student is enrolled,” she added. Sue Edwards from Destination for Education agreed that agents are essential to help with the “hands-on” parts of coming to the UK and to support students’ transition.
Robinson discussed how other countries work with agents, pointing out that 75% of students are admitted to Australian institutions through agents, compared to around 50% in the UK. She said Australia had “long understood” the role of agents and cited the recent incentive scheme for agents in Western Australia.
The APPG is set to launch an inquiry into post-study work visas in the coming months.