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Jon Santangelo, Spokesperson for BOSSA and COSSA
Jon Santangelo

This week, we interview Jon Santangelo, Spokesperson for agency associations BOSSA and COSSA in China, about activities and trends.

What has BOSSA been up to over the last 12 months?


Though our membership increased at an unprecedented doubling from 95 agencies in 2015 to 195 agencies in 2016, BOSSA's central aim was not to push for higher numbers of members or affiliates, but to enhance the entire industry and market. Our aim was to bolster the agent training course, China Education Agent Course (CEAC), which was the result of the public-private partnership between the Chinese Ministry of Human Resources, ICEF and BOSSA. Since launching CEAC in early 2015, 275 individual agents are now recognised and certified after only two and half years. CEAC is now China's leading accreditation for study abroad professionals.


We've hosted policy briefings at foreign embassies in Beijing, where numerous agents attended and voiced their opinions directly to officials; examples of joint events were with Australia's Chamber of Commerce, UK (UKVI) and with the Education Department of Canada.


What are some of the current trends for Chinese students?


The age group of students going abroad is continuing to go down, averaging around 16 years old, or the graduates of junior high schools. The trend has appeared for some years and we believe it will continue to grow for some time.


An increasing number of students and parents in Tier 1 and 2 cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, etc.) have realised the significance and favourability of the transfer pathway for study in the USA: spend two years at community colleges and transfer to reputable universities afterwards. However, the majority of students are still strongly pushing agencies to help them enrol straight into those same universities - ignoring or unaware of the community college track. We believe community colleges have lots of untapped opportunity.


Has there been much change in the Chinese agency sector since licensing requirements were cancelled by China's State Council?


Most agencies who didn't obtain the license are pleased with the new policy. However, after becoming "legal" (registered businesses) agencies, they then highly want to be recognised by the industry, so many of them are applying for memberships with BOSSA and COSSA. In the past six months, the number of our overall members in COSSA has more than doubled.


Does the cancellation of licensing requirements for Chinese study abroad agencies make BOSSA even more relevant now in terms of ensuring quality control?


Quality control (QC) has been one of the major goals of BOSSA. Since we formed almost 13 years ago, QC has now become our most important goal since the new policy was issued. One of the ways to control the quality of service is to improve the quality of people working in the industry. A few years ago, BOSSA established the first and the only system of employee tests of the agency industry - China Education Agent Certification, and has issued hundreds of certificates, with over a thousand agents enrolled in training, to agents working for BOSSA member agencies. The training system is still rather preliminary at this stage, but will be more mature by the end of 2017, when the three category system will be roughly completed. The total number of agents in China is estimated to be between 20,000 to 30,000. BOSSA is aiming at more than half of them be enrolled in the training system in three-to-five years.


What does BOSSA have planned for the rest of 2017 and beyond?


Complete or nearly complete the CEAC training system.


Marketing of the project of Chinese education document verification services (in cooperation with the Ministry of Education)


A number of Chinese regional conferences/expos of BOSSA and COSSA.


One or two delegations of member agencies to North America or Europe.


A new training project for senior management of member agencies - BOSSA business school.



Jon Santangelo is Spokesperson for agency associations BOSSA (Beijing Overseas Study Service Association) and COSSA (China Overseas Study Service Alliance).


The interview is an unabridged version of an article that appears in the September 2017 issue of StudyTravel Magazine.