The question of whether international education agents should be regulated in Canada is under the spotlight in consultations being undertaken by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) for Canada’s new international education strategy, due for release in April 2024.

A GAC discussion paper on the topic of education agents notes that “Canada’s reputation as a provider of high-quality education services is directly at risk due to the unethical practices of some education agents used by certain Canadian educational institutions” and that this is seen as a major weakness for Canada’s international education industry.

Agent practices have increasingly been the subject of debate following a television documentary that aired in Canada in October 2022 in which the promise of easy permanent residency after graduation was made to students by education agents in India. More recently, a case of immigration agent fraud has left up to 700 Indian students in Canada facing deportation.

The GAC agent discussion paper asks stakeholders whether the industry can self-regulate agents or if a body like the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants of Canada should be given responsibility for doing so. The discussion paper also raises the issue of whether aggregators, should be held accountable for the actions of their contracted sub-agents.

Meanwhile, in the US, a new report by The American International Recruitment Council (AIRC) and BONARD, supported by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA) highlights that agents are playing an increasingly important role in international student recruitment.

The report, The State of The International Student Recruitment and Enrollment Field Survey which includes data from more than 300 higher education institutions and educational recruitment agencies has found that 62% of US universities work with agents, a significant increase from 2016, when a similar BONARD survey found that only 37% worked with agents. Of those universities that are not already working with agents, nearly all (98%) say they are considering partnering with agents in the future.

The report highlights the services agents provide students go well beyond support with applications, with agents providing application support (95%), visa assistance (84%), interview support (84%), language assessment (64%), and accommodation support (64%) to students.

Global Student Living Index (GSLI) data confirms that agents are also an important influencer for international students when it comes to finding accommodation in the UK. GSLI Q4 2022 data shows that while search methods such as university websites or general web searches are still the most popular resources used by international students, agents were an important resource used in the accommodation search for 13%. Agent services also extend in some cases to making accommodation bookings, with 10% of international students saying that an education agent or consultant made their accommodation booking.