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Productive Conflict in Action — Agent Aggregators: an ICEF Podcast

Productive Conflict in Action

“The term you’re looking for isn’t ‘diversity of thought.’ It’s ‘productive conflict.’”

A thought-provoking post from Lily Zheng, a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant. If you don’t follow her already, she’s one to look up.

Reading her words took me back to the Dec. 2022 ICEF conference in San Diego. I had the good fortune of sitting on a panel alongside Eddie West, assistant dean for international strategy and programs at San Diego State University; Sadiq Basha, the CEO of Edvoy; and Tony Lee, chief visionary officer for ICEF. The topic: agent aggregators.

It was a really great discussion. Open. Honest. And what Zheng may describe as “productive conflict.” I had a blast. And I think everyone in the room did, too. 90 minutes of panel discussion and audience engagement in a packed room and everyone stayed for the length of it. Not many looking at their phones either. Powerful and cutting edge conversation.

It’s exactly the kind of conversation you’d hope to have at ICEF. And I thank the leadership for including me. Because if you know me, I have strong opinions about the student journey and student success. The Intead team has been doing this stuff for a long time.

Please reach out if you'd like to chat over coffee at the AGB Conference in San Diego April 1.

If you’ve not been to the ICEF North America show, I highly recommend it. The value of it is different for institutions at different stages of their student recruitment journey. Definitely worth evaluating. Shoot us an email if you’d like more perspective on the value.

For those who were not in San Diego with us in December, you’re in luck. Read on for a link to the podcast of the agent aggregator discussion. I think you’ll find it both informative and entertaining.

Read on

To cut to the chase, click here to listen to ICEF Podcast, Episode 38: “Four Perspectives on agent Aggregators.”

It’s a surprisingly quick hour-long episode (edited down from the 90-minute panel discussion).

But one of the concepts that I return to is transparency. Eddie spoke a lot about that, summing it up when he said “Anonymity and transparency rarely go hand in hand.”

It’s a real concern for an industry built on relationships.

As you well know, agent aggregators play the intermediary between agents and you/your institution. Your relationship is with the platform, not the agent who’s representing you to prospective students. And these platforms can be sprawling with thousands of agents across countries, continents, and time zones. You can see where transparency falls flat. There is simply no way for all of those agents to know how to describe your institution and communicate why it might fit well into any particular student’s plans.

But, to Sadiq’s point, twenty years ago most of us weren’t comfortable using the likes of Booking.com or Uber. Yet, here we are.

Perhaps we just need to get used to using these platforms and build in a few more guardrails. After all, their stated goal is honest enough: to use tech to simplify the recruitment process, make life easier for students, agents, and institutions, and improve conversion rates. What admissions team doesn’t like that? (Answer: It’s not about the conversion goals if the student success goals are not being met.)

Through it all, I come back to the student. And a cadre of questions: Is a click-through-enrollment process really the student journey we should aspire to? Or does the process need to be more meaningful? Where is critical thinking in all of this? And isn’t the student journey all about their experience? Who is really benefiting here?

You’re thinking the same thing, right? Ultimately, how can tech remove barriers and make things easier while producing great outcomes?

If you’re looking for a partner to help make the aggregator landscape clearer for you, be in touch. My team takes a broad view of this niche. We see it as one potential tactic within a much more comprehensive international student recruitment strategy. We’d love to help.

And though we know it’s still months away, we hope you’re thinking about ICEF Miami. We’d love to see you there in December 2023! Let us know if you are going.

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