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2nd December 2013

Foreign student recruitment agencies to be scrutinised

After reports of misconduct, the British Council has announced plans to regulate agencies hired by UK universities to recruit international students

Recruitment agents hired by UK universities to recruit international students will be vetted under new plans by the government.

Agents will be made to sign a new ‘code of practice’, undertake regular assessments, and will have to obtain a professional accreditation before they can start work. The British Council will then keep a database, and monitor their conduct.

These changes come after The Daily Telegraph discovered that overseas agents were bragging to prospective students that they could secure them places at UK universities, even with worse A level grades than British students.

Kevin Van-Cauter, the International Higher Education Advisor to the British Council, said, “We do not accredit education agents or agencies but we hope the global trained agents database and roll-out of the advanced training will add greater assurance to institutions that they are getting the best possible services when it comes to international student recruitment.”

He went on further to say that “International students make a tremendous academic, cultural and economic contribution to the UK, and our research suggests that the number of mobile students globally will continue to grow over the next decade – making the need for better quality agents who support that mobility process greater than ever.”

International students are well known as a lucrative market for UK universities, because under the current regulations they are able to charge them in excess of the £9000 cap imposed on UK/EU students. More than 488,000 come to the UK to study each year, and the government expects that the numbers are going to continue to rise.

Last year research demonstrated that over 51,000 students were recruited by foreign organisations, and UK universities had paid these organisations over £220 million to recruit international students. Newcastle University alone spent £2.2 million.

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