And Don’t Forget the Tried-and-True Carrot & Stick Approach
Colleagues sometimes ask me to recommend education agents in Viet Nam. While I’d like to be able to help them in this regard, I can’t. The simple reason is that this is such a problematic (read shady) and unregulated sector. There is no one (or one company) that I can honestly vouch for.
If they ask me about a particular company, all that I can say it that I haven’t heard or read anything bad about that company, if that is indeed the case. Some are well-established and have been around for a long time. If I know that a specific company has been engaged in unethical or even illegal activity, I can share that information. (I rely on documented evidence not hearsay or gossip.)
My advice to colleagues is simple and straightforward. Apply rigorous screening criteria and use your own best judgement, including intuition, a valuable yet underestimated quality. Do prospective agents treat students and parents as clients and not their partner institutions, which pay them a per-head commission? Do they counsel or script students when it comes to the visa interview preparation? What do colleagues have to say about company A, B, or C?
Don’t rely on any external “stamps of approval,” which are limited in value for a host of reasons, including the (in)ability to monitor the activities of “certified” agents. (Examples of naughty yet “certified” agents provide ample grist for another post or even a full-length article. That’s an article waiting to be written by some enterprising investigative journalist.)
Here are some relevant articles and posts I’ve written:
Hold your education agents to your high standards, stay in frequent touch, and keep the lines of communication open. Trust, if you have a reason to, but always verify. Use the tried-and-true carrot and stick approach. Business is based on trust, which is inextricably linked to integrity, relationship and performance. If they don’t meet your high expectations, there are other fish in the sea.
Finally, don’t put too many of your international student recruitment eggs in the education agent basket, especially in competitive markets like Viet Nam. You will also need to invest time and money in non-commission-based recruitment tools and techniques.