Agents, Commissions, Conflicts of Interest? Tackling bias in Education Consultancy.
Are schools and families being held to ransom by placement bias in education agencies? William Clarence Director, Stephen Spriggs discusses....
In recent months it has come to my attention that, as schools rely more and more on international and boarding students, in turn, they seem to be paying out more and more in agency fees – domestically and internationally- to education agencies in order to find these students.
It’s not only the schools who are feeling the squeeze from this. William Clarence is hearing far too often from families who have been given poor advice from agents placing students with the highest bidder, regardless of suitability and fit.
The result of this? Students being placed in a poor fit school, only to then be moved again while the agency collects a second commission. An awful and morally corrupt practice with no regard for the long-term wellbeing of the student.
With agency fees typically being anything between 10-20% of first year fees, this screams out as a clear conflict of interest. If an agent stands to gain from a certain school for placement, there is no guarantee of transparency or impartiality in the advice they are offering to their clients. It transpires that many agents from abroad – including China, Hong Kong, and the Middle East – have not even visited or spoken to the schools they recommend, aside from negotiating a lucrative commission agreement with them.
For schools, this is a very expensive way of recruiting students, with many schools spending 50-100k per year on fees to agents for students. A far more effective way would be to increase branding, locally and abroad, in key markets, establish and nurture relationships with international partners, and really narrow down their student profile - rather than throwing money at an advertising campaign with impossible RIO’s gathered.
I think schools currently are being held to ransom by some agents, both domestically and internationally. They need good students, but the agent will only provide students if they receive high fees back each year - which can equate to 6-8k per student! That is not sustainable for schools who are already operating on thin margins, with numerous headwinds approaching in the coming years. It can’t be a surprise that schools are forced to use these agents, as they are in such need of interventional fee-paying students. Protections need to be put in place to safeguard both institutions and students in these situations.
At William Clarence, we are committed to transparency in the service and advice our education consultants provide, and to being a totally free and impartial service to schools when representing our clients and students. We never ask for or accept commissions for the students we place. Our main aim is to find a place for our students at the right school for them - not where the highest fee is. As a result, we have great relationships with our schools and are seen as a partner - not a necessary evil.
William Clarence's thriving Family Services team is always on hand to offer advice and guidance for parents on all aspects of UK and International School Placement and Admissions. Contact us today to arrange a consultation.