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Recruiting Intelligence

Agent Barometer Reveals: Top 3 Steps to Improving Your Competitive Advantage

This has been a momentous year for universities interested in using commission-based recruiting agents. The NACAC decision seems to have lifted a black cloud from many institutions and we know of many that are actively establishing or expanding agent relationships to enhance enrollment capabilities in international markets.

We thought that it was opportune to look again at the annually released i-graduate and ICEF agent barometer data. This comprehensive review based on responses from more than 1,100 agents from around the world covers a wide range of topics. Last year, we focused your attention on the competitiveness between different English-speaking countries. This year, we want to look more closely at how your institution can become more attractive to agents.

Specifically, let's talk about those services that can make your institution more competitive. We really liked Graph 1 (below) from the barometer.

  • The services that agents value most from the schools and universities: to increase their ability to market and explain your academic offering to prospective students and their parents, agents want consistent communication, information and quick response time from you and your team. These are the most critical factors. It only makes sense. How can agents communicate the value of your institution? How can they explain what truly makes your institution stand out from the crowd if they don't have consistent and easy access to you and your marketing information?
  • In-person and online training also receives high marks. Still, this training ranks below the quick turnaround and response/availability agents need from their university clients if they are to do a good job.

Graph 2 (below) also seems important to us in the context of the competition among institutions all over the world for well-qualified, tuition-paying students.

In reviewing the number of institutions an agency might represent, you can see a wide distribution. The bulk of the agencies are clustered among counselors representing up to 60 institutions and then again at more than 100 institutions - an inverted bell curve. In looking at this chart, consider that agents represent a wide range of programs such as undergraduate and graduate courses, language programs, pathway and even vocational programs. Here is the take-away from this chart:

  • Not only do you want to win the attention of students, you also want to win the attention of counselors. So, beyond offering strong academic programs, do you make it easy for counselors to understand those programs and your institution? Do your counselors know how to judge the appropriateness of your programs for students? And can counselors easily translate and convey the strength of your programs to parents and prospective students?

The i-graduate/ICEF agent barometer confirms what we have been hearing during the past month while researching our new INTEAD ebook, Counselors and Agents: Building and Managing Your International Network. You can download the book here free of charge. We interviewed more than 50 university professionals around the world to understand how they effectively manage and expand their agent relationships. We trust that it will be a great resource for the institutions interested in this growing recruitment channel.

Bottom Line: With the growing competition for the best students and the most talented international recruiting agents, learning from your colleagues who have already traveled this path successfully will save you time and energy. By providing agents with 1) clear communications about the advantages of your institution, 2) quick responses to their enquires, and 3) training, you can keep pace with or surpass the competition.

Graph 1

Source: i-Graduate / ICEF

Graph 2

Source: i-Graduate / ICEF
Topics: Insights