A Deal with the Devil aka Partners in Unethical Behavior?
Discussions about the use of commission-based recruitment and international student recruitment in general are often couched in black and white terms. The former refers to the unethical business practices of many education agents whose overriding goal is money, and lots of it as quickly as possible, by hook or by crook. The latter refers to institutional colleagues who are generally assumed to be above the fray and often the victims of unscrupulous and nefarious agents.
It may not be “breaking news”,” but it’s certainly underreported news that quite a few education colleagues are not choosy about their partners as long as the student pipeline flows freely. The end justifies the means, in other words. In the spirit of “it takes two to tango,” they cross that tainted line as soon as they decide to work with a particular company, in spite of having proof of wrongdoing on the part of said company.
Since such agents recruit students in a way that puts partner schools’ interests first, students are not always well-informed about the admitting institution and therefore not always pleased with what they discover. (This of course is one of the fundamental flaws of traditional commission-based recruitment.)
This can result in lackluster student retention and negative word-of-mouth advertising, which reflect poorly on both the school and the agent. That’s the long-term view. The short-term end result is that the institution gets its student(s) and the agent gets its commission(s).
Aside from agents, there are other education companies for whom cheating is a way of doing business. An example I’ve cited in the past is one foreign company that essentially bribed students to attend its fair by offering a cash payment to each attendee who brought a friend. That clearly crossed the line from incentive to bribe, wouldn’t you agree?
Those colleagues who choose to work with unethical education agents are co-conspirators, no better than their partners in crime, conjuring up the image evoked by this instructive and timeless quote from Benjamin Franklin: He that lieth down with dogs, shall rise up with fleas. Best to avoid the dogs and therefore the fleas.