Matthew Knott, News Editor of StudyTravel Magazine
Opinion... from the News Editor

A welcome reprieve, well at least temporary one, has been granted over the use of commission to agents by universities in the Middle States of the USA for the recruitment of international students.

The Middle States Commission for Higher Education (MSCHE) - which accredits universities in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland - has delayed a decision on whether to ban commission payments.


Detail of why the decision has been delayed was in fairly short supply in a statement issued by MSCHE, but the organisation said it was sending the proposals to member universities for further consultation and was also seeking legal advice from attorneys on the proposals.


One can only speculate that the policy has met with some internal opposition from universities within the MSCHE jurisdiction. It is worth noting that New York is second only to California in terms of numbers of international students in the USA, so there would certainly be a vested interest from many institutions in maintaining commission payments.


MSCHE was adamant that its proposal was not a ban on the usage of agents, just on per-head commission rates. But while other models exist and are in use in the United States, this surely amounts to an effective ban on agents.


The proposal to ban commission certainly jolted when it was published earlier in the year, given that the agent issue seemed to have been settled in 2013 when National Association of College Admission Counsellors (Nacac) adjusted its principles to permit agent usage.


That Nacac decision in itself was most likely a reflection of the reality that many of its members were already using agents anyway and research commissioned by Bridge Education Group suggests that agent usage has gathered pace since that Nacac decision.


It strikes me that there is a slightly blinkered attitude towards agents from some main university campuses in the USA at times, often ignoring the reality that their own language centres or pathway partners are happily using agents to recruit students that then move on to become full degree students. Indeed, we reported on a new pathway agreement in the USA just this week.


Either way, the USA - or states within it - can hardly afford to cut off the agent supply chain now, at a time when a strong dollar and negative perceptions of current political manoeuvres are seemingly pushing the country towards the first downturn in student enrolments in many years.


Emphasising that possibility, another news story this week seemed to be a microcosm of where the international higher education industry is at present. In its financial year 2017 report, global pathway provider Navitas cited strong enrolments in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, while the USA and the UK stagnated.


Elsewhere in what has been a very busy few days on the news desk, we have reports on an interesting study on the impact of language study abroad by Sprachcaffe; English New Zealand appointing a new Chair; a project to create more transparency between New Zealand and EU qualification frameworks; and a new family course in sunny Cape Town.


And don't forget that the shortlist for the StudyTravel Star Awards 2017 has been announced.


There is certainly a buzz around this already: last week's news announcement was our most-read story of the year! So thank you to all our readers, and we look forward to seeing many of you at the awards ceremony in September.



Matthew Knott

News Editor