Recruitment agent data dump ‘won’t tell the whole story’

Increased transparency on provider performance vital as well, representative group tells Australian government

January 20, 2019
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Education agents say that Australia’s plan to publicly report their performance will create more problems than it solves.

The proposal, outlined in a Department of Education and Training discussion paper, would name and shame agents referring large numbers of students who went on to fail, defer, transfer to other institutions or get expelled for visa violations or non-payment of fees.

It would also highlight the agents who are channelling lots of successful students. The paper says that the plan will encourage universities and other providers to choose agents judiciously “through a more detailed range of data that allows comparisons”.

The department has issued providers with reports on their own agents’ performance since late 2017. Under the proposal, detailed data will be published on a public website from mid-2019 so that providers and students can compare agents.

The department is also considering “test reports” on agents referring the most enrolments and those servicing “high-risk” source countries.

Outlining the plan previously, Dan Tehan, the education minister, said that it would “encourage greater transparency and leadership in student recruitment practices”. “Our government will not allow our international education sector to be overrun by shonky providers,” he added.

The Association of Australian Education Representatives in India said that it welcomed the scrutiny and acknowledged that Australia could not directly regulate foreign companies operating offshore. But the outgoing AAERI president, Rahul Gandhi, said that the information proposed for release was far from complete.

He said that while the performance data covered the years since 2012, providers had been obliged to disclose their agents only from 2018. A bigger issue was that the reports would not cover the relevant activities of the providers themselves, such as whether they overlooked their own entrance requirements in areas such as language skills.

“If they want to release the agent’s performance, they also need to release the performance of the education provider, which is also there on the system, so that we are all on the same page. The picture has to be complete,” Mr Gandhi said.

“There is no point just focusing on the entrance door. You also need to focus on the exit. It’s like a cricket match where you analyse only the first 10 overs and not the remaining 40.”

Mr Gandhi said that the proposal would spawn “a lot of loose talk”, with agents blamed for outcomes beyond their control. “I think it will create more mess than solution.”

A consultation on the proposal runs until 8 February.

john.ross@timeshighereducation.com

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