Agent Quality Framework

Published 28/02/2022

Earlier in January BUILA published several key documents related to the agent quality framework research it conducted last year.

These documents formed the key building blocks towards an Agent Quality Framework and included: -

Why did BUILA do this research?

In late 2019 the Department for Education (DfE) made a request to the Office for Students (OfS) to gain UK higher education sector feedback on potential solutions to “harmful recruitment practices” relating to agents, with the aim of establishing how agents, HEIs and sector bodies could work together to ensure that UKHE is best represented, and students supported.

In addition to this there has been an increasingly challenging backdrop of intense media scrutiny, continued pressure on institutional compliance and rapid recruitment growth in higher risk markets A rapidly changing agent market and the development of new business models have coincided with this growth which has increased the need for agent training and related policies to be consistent across the sector. Furthermore, the success of the new Graduate Route Visa will be underpinned by the continued success of sector recruitment practices.

Therefore, to anticipate any OFS enquiry and to ensure that the sector are leading a focus on quality, BUILA in partnership with UKCISA, commissioned research aimed at understanding the experience of international students who use agents, establishing a snapshot of current practice both from universities and agents themselves and to obtain a set of actionable insights and recommendations. Over 300 education agents and over 500 international non-EU students across different levels were surveyed for the research, in addition to stakeholder consultation sessions with OFS, The Home Office, DfE, DiT, FE, IHE and pathway providers.

The Research made 3 major recommendations that would lead to a quality framework:

  1. The creation of a single ethical code for Agents
  2. A review of costing and content for BC Agent training & communications
  3. The creation of a good practice guide for universities

What has happened and next steps

Throughout February BUILA in collaboration with Edified have conducted a free 3-part series of masterclasses on ‘The Good Practice Guide’ and ‘The National Code’ to help members understand the contents and to develop consistency and quality across the sector.

Through a tri-lateral partnership between the British Council, BUILA and Edified, further work will be conducted to review and redevelop a the British Council agent training offering and develop a British Council agent communication hub that will take into account the findings from the agent quality framework research and the related publications.