Intelligent agency

March 5, 2015

I write in response to the article about the use of agents by UK universities (“Agents paid an average of £1,767 per non-EU recruit”, News, 19 February). Because of an error, the figures released by Coventry University included substantial non-agent related costs and therefore do not accurately reflect our spending on agents. In fact, the university receives substantial, and increasing, numbers of direct applicants and is creating overseas hubs to support recruitment alongside research, partnering and alumni activities. As a result, our spending on agents is well below the total quoted (and much less than the average figure quoted for the sector), even though we are one of the largest recruiters of overseas students.

Good agents play a vital role in advising students on where they can achieve the learning outcomes that they are looking for, and a properly managed agent portfolio allows institutions to attract gifted individuals. Coventry’s use of agents is part of a considered approach to recruitment within a well-articulated internationalisation agenda.

A greater source of concern should be the fact that the increasing use of agents by North American universities and changes in visa regulations in a number of countries have caused the previous growth in overseas enrolments in the UK to flatten. Recruitment from countries such as India, which has traditionally had strong links with the UK, has been particularly affected, although there are some signs of recovery.

In an international world, we seek opportunities to promulgate the values and vision of UK higher education, not only in the UK but also to an increasing extent by working overseas and in collaboration with global partners.

John Latham
Vice-chancellor, Coventry University

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