How agents and institutions can work together to provide a great student experience

International education is exploding in popularity. In the ICEF Agent Voice 2H22 report, 73% of agents surveyed saw an increase in interest from students wishing to study abroad. Whilst the top study destinations are still the usual suspects - Australia, Canada, the U.K., and the U.S. - increasingly students are selecting “up-and-coming'' destinations within the EU, Latin America, Scandinavia and even China. Some 83% of the 410 agents from 81 different countries surveyed by ICEF believe the shift in popular study destinations to be driven primarily by the cost of study and living,

This diversification is compounding an already complex ecosystem, giving students more choice than ever before. As a result, institutions are facing more competition and, with internal resources being stretched to a breaking point, the services of education agents are more in demand than ever.

Acting as in-country brand representatives for their education institution clients as well as professional advisors to students and their families, agents perform a vital and multi-faceted role for the higher education sector. Key to achieving success in this role is close collaboration with institutions and clear communication about what success looks like.

When institutions invest time and resources in building a strategic partnership with their agents the results speak for themselves. Here are a few ways institutions and education agents can partner together to drive benefits.

Agents: Add value for your institutions

The education agent world is exceedingly complex and grows more complex by the day. Agents have to keep track of changing visa requirements and conditions, visa processing delays, and other shifts in destination markets - and that’s on top of their day-to-day work supporting students.

Instead of viewing institutions as a hindrance, education agents would benefit from joint strategic planning with the institutions they work with to focus their efforts not only in “matchmaking” students with suitable universities but also to provide universities with applications from students who are likely to enroll and ultimately graduate. To do so, agents should consider the following:

Deep dive into institutional objectives and priorities

Whilst international recruitment is central to the growth strategies of most institutions, there may be other priorities underpinning this objective. By asking the right questions, agents can better understand the strategic priorities of their institution partners. This could be anything from a desire to increase the number of students from one source, grow applications in a particular discipline, improve gender balance or increase the overall academic caliber of students. Education agents can add real value by helping to deliver institutional goals to achieve growth strategies and deepen relationships with institutions.

Don’t put numbers ahead of all other values

When it comes down to it, an education agent should focus on placing students on campuses that best fit and meet their needs. Yes, commission is important for agents - after all it’s what puts dinner on the table - but the most successful agents prioritize quality placements and student welfare ahead of money or other KPIs.

By working to help international students navigate the daunting level of choice available and offering support throughout the application process, agents will show their value as in-country brand representatives to their partner institutions.

Commit to broader screening for potential students

An important role of an education agent is outreach to potential students in the markets they serve and place those students at partner institutions. However, focusing solely on the number of applications sent to an institution, rather on student suitability, likelihood to graduate or even their ability to finance education, can negatively impact the institution, particularly where resources to process applications are stretched. As a partner, education agents should commit to a broader screening process when considering students, including financial capacity, personal suitability, and seriousness of intent. By focusing on a quality list of potential students in the beginning, agents can achieve a higher success rate with institution placement - a trifecta win for students, agents, and institutions.

Institutions: Invest in your agents

To succeed, institutions must realize that agents aren’t just a means to an end. They can be valuable strategic partners and relationship managers between the institutions they serve and the students they support. Here are some ways this can be achieved:

Take time to train your agents

There is an overwhelming level of demand for international education, and agents help students narrow down their choices in today’s competitive marketplace. But not every student is going to be suitable for your institution, and the time it takes to process an application from an unsuitable candidate is time wasted. If an education agent has been trained to screen potential students according to your institution’s criteria, they can properly advise students about their likely success and in doing so, save you time and money as well as improve conversion rates.

Implement commission based on successful enrollment

Find agents who are focused on the proper placement and support of students into international institutions over the allure of a commission check. Commission should be a second thought, not the main priority but it’s not uncommon for some agents to simply send every student they can to an institution in the hopes of a larger fee.

If you partner with agents who truly care, and incentivize them with commission that is paid after successful enrollment, you establish an expectation of quality over quantity and that students should receive good advice based on their needs.

Use an online payment solution to simplify payment processes

One of the biggest hangups for agents is that it takes too much time to receive commission payments after invoicing institutions. All too often the internal processes of institutions are manual or disjointed, added to which 68% of agents have no CRM or other software to help manage commission payments, and 63% use excel or another manual process to keep track of invoices, according to ICEF’s biannual Agent Voice report, which means payment takes longer than it should and also allows things to slip through the cracks and get missed.

Institutions can show they’re invested in partnering with agents by smoothing the processes that they find painful and providing a secure platform to simplify payments.

Agents have also increased the financial products and support offered to students, according to the ICEF report, with 74% of agents surveyed helping their students facilitate tuition fee payments - many of which use Flywire. Our Agent Platform allows institutions and agents to manage communications and streamline payment processes, seamlessly connecting agents, students and institutions.

As the desire for an international education continues to increase in popularity, it is clear that the partnership between education agents and institutions is increasingly more important than ever. Working in partnership to focus on quality student experiences from start to finish and having the right tools and processes needed to optimize the overall education journey will put everyone on the path to success.

Want to learn more?

Check out the following resources to see why Flywire is the Trusted Choice of millions of students and thousands of education institutions and agents around the world:

Visit ICEF to download the latest bi-annual Agent Voice survey report.