UK Agent Quality Framework Universities' Pledge

Pledge shows UK unity for Agent Quality Framework

The UK Higher Education sector’s commitment to the UK Agent Quality Framework (AQF) and the National Code of Ethical Practice has been demonstrated today at the BUILA winter conference. A group of universities have signed a formal pledge to follow the UK AQF, a charter that has been designed to promote shared best practice in agent management including robust training and standardised processes. The show of unity comes at a significant time for the sector as global enrolment swings are creating recruitment challenges for universities following a period of significant growth. Sarah Chidgey, Head of International Education at the Department for Business and Trade, said “the UK’s world-class higher education sector is a key driver for economic growth and we are delighted that the sector is united in promoting the highest standards of selection and management of recruitment partners overseas.” There are 28 early signatories to the pledge including Durham University, Ulster University, University of East Anglia, University of Bangor and University of Edinburgh, representing the breadth of the British sector and devolved governments.

Shane Collins, Director of Student Recruitment and Admissions at the University of Edinburgh echoed the importance of showing strength and unity in the sector, saying “in signing up to the Agent Quality Framework and National Code of Ethical Practice UK universities demonstrate their commitment to working together to ensure a positive and proactive approach in supporting and managing informed relationships with international agents.”

“Agents play a key role in advising and informing applicants who wish to study in the UK” Collins continued.

“We take our collective responsibility to ensure accurate information, advice and guidance is available to all applicants and enquirers very seriously – this is an important step in both developing and communicating this commitment”. After a period of consultation, BUILA formulated a multi-stakeholder framework, designed to foster a culture of proactive self-regulation, knowledge-sharing and best practice to protect service standards for students wanting to study in the UK. Rolled out across the sector in 2023, it represents a collaborative community of institutional, agent and government stakeholders with a shared commitment to a standard charter. In addition to the pledge, the formulation of a new Agent Advisory Committee and Institutional Steering Group will mark the next phase of evolution to the framework and its adoption across the sector.

BUILA also commissioned a detailed research project into the national codes of practice for education agents used by other countries to ensure the UK approach remains relevant and effective. Clear liaison with The Home Office, Department for Education and Department for Business and Trade led through BUILA and Universities UK international (UUKi) will link UK policy to the AQF. The British Council’s investment in the UK’s training programme for agents, a key component of the framework, has successfully certified over 3000 UK recruiters from more than 90 countries worldwide in less than a year. The British Council team are now proactively targeting gaps in training for large recruiters for the UK to ensure key stakeholders have all completed the standardised certification. By signing the pledge, UK universities are agreeing to take proactive steps to create and maintain the highest standards of agent management. These include steps such as clear signposting of certified agents for student use, a formal complaints process and building the requirement for certified training and adherence to the National Code of Ethical Practice into legal contracts. Catriona McCarthy, Chair for BUILA outlined the strength of the AQF, saying “recent coverage surrounding agents has been somewhat negative and could be better balanced with a clearer understanding of the role agents play in international student recruitment and the proactive work that has been undertaken in the sector to ensure the right controls are in place. “The AQF is a collaborative, sector wide initiative, delivering the tools that both students, agents and universities need to ensure that the standards associated with UK higher education are maintained and protected. “An important next step is to now open mechanisms through which those who fail to meet the required standards can be reported and known within the sector and government.”

The Agent Quality Framework, was launched in 2023 and comprises of a free, agent and counsellor training and engagement hub created by the British Council; a Good Practice Guide for Agents & Counsellors, and a ‘Student Guide’ containing tips on what to look out for when selecting an agent; a National Code of Ethical Practice for Education Agents and the Good Practice Guide for Providers. Links:

UK Agent and Counsellor Training and Engagement Hub

The National Code of Ethical Practice for Education Agents

The Good Practice Guide for Providers using Education Agents

The Good Practice Guide for UK Education Agents Partnering for Quality

A Student Guide to Choosing an Education Agent

The British Council’s UK Agent and Counsellor Training hub was developed in partnership with UK education sector partners, including UKCISA, UUKi, the Association of Colleges, The Council of British Independent Schools and English UK. It is free to use and upon completion, individuals receive certification of their training. For more information on the UK Agent Quality Framework, UK International Education Sector's Pledge, including how to sign the Pledge, please access the UK AQF Pledge toolkit here.

The UK International Education Sector's Pledge is a new initiative to signify unity and commitment to the AQF. Universities and other education providers that have signed the Pledge are listed below: (last updated 13 May 2024)

Abertay University

Aberystwyth University

Anglia Ruskin University

Arts University Bournemouth

Aston University

BIMM University

Bangor University

Bath Spa University

Birkbeck, University of London

Bournemouth University

Brunel University London

Buckinghamshire New University

Canterbury Christ Church University

Cardiff Metropolitan University

Cardiff University

City, University of London

Cranfield University

De Montfort University

Durham University

Edge Hill University

Edinburgh Napier University

Falmouth University

Glasgow Caledonian University

Glasgow School of Art

Goldsmiths University of London

Heriot-Watt University

Keele University

King’s College London

Kingston University

Lancaster University

Leeds Arts University

Leeds Beckett University

Leeds Conservatoire

Leeds Trinity University

Liverpool Hope University

Liverpool John Moores University

London Metropolitan University

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

London South Bank University

Loughborough University

Manchester Metropolitan University

Middlesex University

Newcastle University

Northeastern University London

Northumbria University

Nottingham Trent University

Oxford Brookes University

Queen Mary University of London

Queen Margaret University

Queens University Belfast

Ravensbourne University London

Regents University London

Robert Gordon University

Royal Agricultural University

Royal Holloway, University of London

Royal Veterinary College

St George’s, University of London

St Mary's University

Sheffield Hallam University

SOAS University of London

Solent University

Staffordshire University

Swansea University

Teesside University

The University of Edinburgh

The University of Manchester

The University of West London

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

Ulster University

University College Birmingham

University College London

University for the Creative Arts

University of the Arts London

University of Aberdeen

University of Bath

University of Bedfordshire

University of Birmingham

University of Bradford

University of Brighton

University of Bristol

University of Central Lancashire

University of Chester

University of Chichester

University of Cumbria

University of Derby

University of Dundee

University of East Anglia

University of East London

University of Essex

University of Exeter

University of Glasgow

University of Gloucestershire

University of Greenwich

University of Hertfordshire

University of the Highlands and Islands

University of Huddersfield

University of Hull

University of Kent

University of Leeds

University of Leicester

University of Lincoln

University of Liverpool

University of Plymouth

University of Portsmouth

University of Northampton

University of Nottingham

University of Reading

University of Roehampton London

University of St Andrews

University of Salford

University of Sheffield

University of South Wales

University of Southampton

University of Stirling

University of Strathclyde

University of Suffolk

University of Sunderland

University of Surrey

University of Sussex

University of the West of England Bristol

University of Wales Trinity Saint David

University of Warwick

University of the West of Scotland

University of Westminster

University of Winchester

University of Wolverhampton

University of Worcester

University of York

Wrexham University

York St John University


Other Education Providers

Cambridge Education Group

Kaplan Pathways

INTO University Partnerships

Navitas

Oxford International Education Group

Study Group