In the year 1190 a man named Emo of Friesland enrolled at Oxford University and in the process became the world’s first recorded “international student”. You could argue that as a result of Emo’s pioneering actions, the international education industry was born…
Yet, for a true understanding of how the modern education industry began we must fast-forward 796 years to 1986. It was in this year that the Australian government, with the stroke of a pen, empowered universities to accept full fee paying international students with the option of paying commission to recruitment agents. This move immediately created a 2000% growth in international enrolments. An industry born overnight!
Today, the US is the largest exporter of international education with 764,000 students currently studying upon their shores. This represents 20% of the international education market vs. the 23% currently cornered by Australia, Canada and the UK. All things being equal, this sounds about right, based on population and the fact that the US hosts a great deal more colleges and universities than other countries.
However, things are not equal. Australia, Canada and the UK pay agent commissions to student recruitment professionals, whereas US based Universities & Colleges do not. In this respect the US is still yet to go through the change that Australia experienced in 1986.
This situation is a result of a ban by the NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counselling) the purpose of which being to ensure that the US export of education has largely developed organically, without the influence of offshore student recruitment agents. Hence, US institutions are subject to the following:
“All members will not offer or accept any reward or remuneration from a secondary school, college, university, agency, or organization for placement or recruitment of students.”
For the uninitiated, recruitment agents drive a majority percentage of international student recruitment & placement in the UK, Canada and Australia. In fact 57.6% of international students studying in Australia are recruited via an agent, representing half a billion (probably more) in agent commission payments.
Now, imagine if the US education industry were to suddenly commence working with international student recruitment agents? The commission up for grabs would almost certainly hover somewhere around the billion dollar mark. Of the agents I know, large and small, it would be safe to say that most of them would want in and pronto!
So with NACAC currently looking at lifting this ban on US education commission payments, we must ask ourselves the following very important questions:
1) Will the US explode as a destination, similar to Australia?
2) Will agent guided students travelling to the US choose the same institutions, or will there be a redistribution?
3) What will this mean for the industry as a whole, especially UK, Canada & Australia?
In order to help you answer the above questions you may want to consider this fact: International students represent around 22% of total higher education students in Australia… in the USA this figure is just 3.5%.