Don’t let your education agent decide your future!

Don’t let your education agent decide your future!

Deciding a career option is one of the most daunting and challenging tasks for you if you are planning your university education. Students in the developing world often dream of studying abroad after finishing the school. Particularly challenging is when you are trying to choose the right subjects to study in the right University. A large number of students rely on education agents or consultants and simply follow the advice of these agents.

Not all education agents are as good as they are thought to be. You could be a nightmare if you end up with a university that is not suitable for you, as you will be compelled to study the subjects that are not of interests to you.

Here are some tips for you to avoid this nightmare and to enable you to command your study on your own. 10 tips presented below with some real stories (anonymized) that might help you to think and act as you step forward in advancing your education.

Tip 1: The low-cost option does not always work.

Often the education agents advise low-cost options in relation to the choice of University and subjects. This is a common mistake made by agents resulting in heavy consequences for the students.

You should keep in mind that the cheapest option is not always the best; you should remain open to options irrespective of the price. High-priced courses and the University may be a better fit for you as you may be able to find a better job in that subject area. Paying a little more at the beginning could make a big difference on the quality of your education and enhance your employability after you finish your study.

One international student, I met in Sydney ended up with a wrong choice of the university and the course. After landing in Sydney, he realized that the university he attends does not have a good reputation and the subject suggested by the education agent also did not match his future aspirations to migrate to Australia.

Story 1: A couple of thousand dollars more would not have been a problem for me finding the right courses and the right university will make all the differences but I did not get proper advice from my agent at the time of my university enrolment. Now I am paying the cost of it.

Tip 2: Don’t choose a University location simply because the agent recommended you!

The location of your university town may have a significant impact on your study and your student life. If you let others decide, it may not always in your favour. Not all the education agents are bad but their strategy to suggest the right courses and the right University location may not always match with your requirements. Here is an example of how a student had to enroll in a remotely located University when an agent wanted to maximize his revenue (Universities offer differential rates of commission to education agents). The higher commission rate offered by the University motivated this agent to do so. It was the student who suffered most:

Story 2: It’s been a nightmare for me to figure out the location of my University which is quite far from Sydney, although I had been advised that it is in Sydney. I had made a plan to come to Sydney where I can do part-time work and my spouse can do full time. However, as my agent put me in a different city where it is almost impossible to find a job. It’s been a challenge for me to manage my cost of living and tuition fees.

In addition, if you are a female student with small kid (s), the location with easy access to the kindergarten is important for you.

Tip 3: Don’t choose your course of studies in haste!

Like the choice of University and its location, selecting the right courses is a vital thing to think through in advance. You have enormous options to choose your course of studies from around 12,000 courses that Australian Universities offer every year. Be aware of the great choices well in advance before you jump into some particular courses. Be aware it is you (not your education agent) to suffer if you are not been able to find a good fit between your career interests and the course of studies.

Tip 4: Accepting your agent’s wrong advice can force you into sleepless nights  

Often international students are told, “The most important part is to have your feet on Australian soil. After that, everything will just flow smoothly and click into place.” This is the most saleable statement drilled into the heads of all students who plan to study in Australia.

A student who was incorrectly enrolled in a subject that was not of his interest disclosed:

Story 3: My first semester went well but I realised the harsh reality when I completed my first semester with very bad marks and even failed some subjects, which was a too bad experience for me.  Now, I regret but it’s already too late. I just relied too heavily on my agent and did nothing on my side. If I was exposed to all this information this site offers, I would choose my subjects more wisely.

Tip 5: Don’t assume an Australian degree always brings cross-cultural learning

Choosing the right subjects does not always work if your University environment is not good to optimize your learning.

Story 4: I was enrolled in subjects that I was interested in but the University was not good in terms of the mixture of the students. The University is modest in terms of tuition fees that is what my agent took care more than any other things. As an international student, I wanted to maximize my cultural learning and English language competency as I am interested in staying in Australia after I finish my study. But, I ended up in a class with more than 60% of the students coming from the same country who speaks the same language but other than English. When I am in the class, I barely feel, I am in one of the Australian University where I can practice speaking English apart from the lecture.

Tip 6: Avoid undesirable situations

You can do a lot to make your student life better. You need to be careful and smart enough to choose the right University and the right subjects in the right location.

To get most out of your study abroad mission, your first step is to carry out massive research on your own about the University, their locations, and the course of studies. Remember, you and your family are investing a big amount of money in your education. Every cent count!

You will have plenty of educational agents to choose from but spend a little bit more of your time to find the right one. You can also visit the websites other than mainstream education agents to get alternatives views/ideas that help you scrutinize the information that you have gathered from these agents.

Tip 7: Make the most out of information available on the websites and don’t rely on one agent

Remember, we are in the era of the digital world- you can find a large chunk of useful information on the internet itself. I guess most of you have some access to the internet and have some basic skills of web searching. Web sites of the Universities are the great source of information freely available to you. You can also verify your choice from word of mouth from your relatives and friends lived and studied abroad. The reviews of the former students posted in the prospective University site are also helpful for you to decide.

While searching, you need to think about the amount of tuition fee you need to pay. Generally, higher the reputation of the University, higher the amount of tuition fee they charge.

Tip 8: Remember – Universities’ reputation makes a significant difference

Having enrolled in a reputed University is always several steps ahead of your future career. One can see the difference in your quality based on the reputation of the University you studied either in the job market or in your own business. Your investment in high-quality education will be paid off.

Tip 9: Make sure your subjects of study are in the Australian Skilled Occupation List  if you intend to migrate

If you are planning to settle abroad or want to get a suitable job in the country you studied, you need to think about the job prospects of the subjects you will be studying. Remember, Australian government regularly revise the list of jobs that shows the scarcity of subject matter specialists in the jobs market. The larger the number of the scarcity of the subject matter specialists, the better is the chance of getting permanent residency in Australia.

For detail, you can visit Australian Government’s Skilled Occupations List (SOL). Remember, the Australian Government updates this list regularly.

Tip 10: Not all the degrees are eligible for subsequence work visa

Be aware of the worst scenarios! Studying a good subject that has job prospect is not enough. Sometimes the duration of your degree may not compatible with the requirement of the immigration office for work visa application or for applying long-term stay (permanent residency). Cecily Huang, a former international student, writes a bitter story in The Sydney Morning Herald (one of the leading Australian newspaper).

Story 5: I recently obtained my master’s degree in journalism from the University of Technology, Sydney. I got a full-time job offer from a well-known Chinese-Australian newspaper, but I needed a Temporary Student Visa to take this job. Unfortunately, after spending $1600 on a non-refundable visa fee, and waiting a month, my visa application was not successful, because my master’s degree was not a “two-year program.

Is she was known this situation before she started her study, she could have enrolled in a two-year degree program.

If you carefully consider the above-mentioned general tips, you should be able to choose the right courses and the right University that suits your needs

Have you chosen a right educational agent to study abroad?

Have you chosen a right educational agent to study abroad?

“Prakash Gurung had almost forgotten that he had paid hundreds of thousands to the consultant when he got the visa. But after reaching London, the college asked for money with him again. He then realized that the consultant had cheated on him by not transferring money to the college”.

“Rajani Sharma of Chitwan had applied at a college in Ireland paying 5,500 Euro (almost 6 lakhs and 21 thousand NRs). But her visa was rejected. Initially, both the college and the consultant hesitated to give her money back but she got  her money back a year after taking legal action”.

The two cases mentioned above represent the plight of the Nepalese students seeking consultancy service to pursue higher education overseas. Owing to the increasing youth unemployment and lack of  quality education system at home, foreign degrees have become a preferred choice of Nepalese students. Similarly, the societal perceptions towards ‘foreign educated’ have become a matter of social prestige and recognition often providing an impetus to international education.

International students’ number ever swells

In fact, Nepali students are among the 10 largest populations of foreign students in Australia, Japan, India and New Zealand. The trend of migrating for international education is increasing every year. The Ministry of Education in Nepal issued a total of 30, 696 no-objection letters for prospective students in the fiscal year 2014-15, compared to 28,126 in the previous year which clearly hints at the craze of international education among Nepali students.

Educational consultancy becoming an ‘industry’

It is estimated that there are about 1,000 educational consultancies in Nepal alone although all of them haven’t been legally registered. Walking down Putalisadak or Baghbazar any morning till evening, we can find thousands of young students at study abroad centres seeking counseling services to materialize their dream. Lured by the promise of student visas and affordable education among others, they throng at these service centres with much enthusiasm and hope. However, students in most cases don’t have even the basic knowledge about the geographical location, environment and culture of their destination countries.

Lured by the promise of student visas and affordable education among others, they throng at these service centres with much enthusiasm and hope. However, students in most cases don’t have even the basic knowledge about the geographical location, environment and culture of their destination countries.

What international students are to expect from educational consultancies?

While it is natural for students to seek professional help to ensure that they are making an informed choice, it is equally important to have done this with a certain level of research. Questions relating to study decisions such as: What are the minimum requirements of the University in the subjects they wish to study? How is the visa process for the corresponding country? How is the job prospect in the subject of your study? How you plan to cover your study cost? If there is any possibility of getting a scholarship to cover your full or part of the study cost.

These questions are vital but the majority of the international students often do not adequately contemplate them. “It’s very rare to get students exploring about their own further study themselves in Nepalese case. They can take information from the students who are already there as well”, says Suman Bhattarai, who went to the USA for further study without knocking the door of consultancies. He added that spending few months surfing about the colleges and their admission requirements will easily help to get things done as international colleges and universities give a clear information about academic requirements, scholarship provisions and the documents to be submitted while applying in their websites.”

Have you checked whether you have chosen a registered consultancy !

It is distressing to note that many educational consultancies have been operating the business without registering with Educational Consultancy and Accreditation Section at the Ministry of Education (MOE). “Educational Consultancies are mushrooming and some individuals have infiltrated them with the intent of serving their vested interests,” said a government official at MOE seeking anonymity. Ranging from the trafficking of persons to foreign countries in the name of abroad study to collecting money from aspiring students for visa processing to send them to Japan, Cyprus, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, the fraudulent business practices remain unabated.There have been instances of a police raid in Kathmandu in the recent past whereby such educational agents have been nabbed and put behind the bars.

Ranging from the trafficking of persons to foreign countries in the name of abroad study to collecting money from aspiring students for visa processing to send them to Japan, Cyprus, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, the fraudulent business practices remain unabated.There have been instances of a police raid in Kathmandu in the recent past whereby such educational agents have been nabbed and put behind the bars.

What support is supposed to offer by educational consultancies?

But with the increasing international enrollments through agents who are being considered as prominent local advisors to provide support for the complex decisions and the processes related to it, it isn’t possible to downplay their role completely. They have been assisting students with everything from study plan counseling to pre-departure intensive language classes, arranging for standardized tests, flight reservations, planning for required insurance, visa and immigration assistance, pre-departure briefings and even career guidance.

Beware of the fake/unreliable consultancies!

According to a counselor at  one of the leading consultancy in Kathmandu, study abroad can’t be still decided or ‘booked’ upon in the manner in which a hotel room or holiday package can be- it is simply too large and personal an investment requiring the help of education agents. “Although some fake agents have also emerged, it is important that students make sure that they go to the certified educational consultants to seek service ”, he said reiterating that some genuine agents are offering high-quality service to students.

For Study Abroad, Education Agents Provide Good Help, But They Could Also Create Problems if You Fail to Choose a Reliable Agent

For Study Abroad, Education Agents Provide Good Help, But They Could Also Create Problems if You Fail to Choose a Reliable Agent

“International students do not have to use an education agent. You can enrol directly with an Australian education institution. Information about what education institutions offer is usually on their websites. If you want to use an education agent, it’s best to pick one used by the institution you want to study at. You can find a list of education agents on the institution’s website.”

– Department of Education and Training Website, Australian Government

With unprecedented popularity of overseas education in the current world, the significance of overseas educational agencies/consultants/counselors of the agents has tremendously increased. Particularly the role of educational agents as intermediaries in the entire process from applying to the university to getting the final approval have been profoundly important with rising aspiration for study abroad programs.

Ranging from offering advice, counseling to placement assistance for prospective students, education agents help students realize their dream of an international degree in the most effective and efficient manner. Although the use of agents is a standard practice across the world, controversies have emerged pertaining to their role.

The Debate

Whether education agents really facilitate students’ requirement has remained debatable in the field of international education for long. While there are some who say that such agents alleviate students’ problems by offering free counseling service and minimum processing charges of documentation, others are critical of their profit maximizing role often deceiving the students.

Of late, various news stories of consultancies taking hefty fees for admitting international students to ‘black-listed’ universities have become rampant highlighting the plights of students. Equally worrisome is the issue of  ‘fake visa guarantee’ which is still gaining greater currency among the educational agents as an instrument of accumulating profit by leaving students in serious trouble.

Australian Context

Australia is emerging as the top destination for international students after USA and UK. The improved  quality of life, safe and vibrant communities and world-class educational opportunities among others make Australia one of the most sought-after countries for getting a globally renowned academic degree.

Enrollment into Australian universities is a cumbersome process requiring the understanding of various systems and processes of university admission and government policies, which is beyond the comprehension of international students as they tend to possess knowledge only in their field of study. Thus, the role of education agents has been on rise in the international education discourse.

An Australian Government website (Australian Trade Commission) provides the following tips for choosing an agent:

  • Under Australian Government law, every Australian education institution that uses the services of an education agent needs to have a contract with that organisation.
  • Australian education institutions usually have more than one education agent appointed in a country so speak to more than one agent – collect and compare information.
  • Under Australian Government law, every Australian education institution has to list on their website every education agent it has appointed to represent them in each country.
  • Choose an education agent with experience helping students study in Australia – they will have a good knowledge of the Australian education system, visas and life in Australia.
  • Make sure that the agent is an authorised representative of the institution that you want to apply to. You can ask to see their letter of appointment from the institutions if you want.
  • Ask about any fees that may be levied for using their services.
  • Have a third party or friend help you understand the documents before you sign any documents.
  • Remember, education agents cannot guarantee a permanent visa or work placement in Australia after you graduate. Their job is to help with applications, so if it sounds too good to be true, keep looking. A reputable agent will be honest about the application process.

In view of the above, following are the ways in which education agents can assist international students wanting to study in Australia:

Career Counseling

International students often approach the education agents amid a lot of confusion. In most cases, students are unsure as to what subjects they should choose from which University. According to Prakash Neupane, senior counselor at Expert Education and Visa Services, based in Kathmandu said “genuine education agents first try and understand the potentialities of students and then suggest them for the best study options. Student’s academic background, previous skills and competencies, and career aspirations are important aspects that education agents should know in advance before offering any advice about the choice of course and university”, he further said.

More importantly, certified education agents help in completing documentation process in short time. The expertise these agents have can be of great help to students who want to make a rigorous study before choosing the best university and best course of study

For the majority of the international students coming from Asia, Information Technology (IT), Accounting, and Management are among the popular courses in Australia. For more details on the choice of the subject studies click here. However, it doesn’t imply that social sciences and humanities have limited scope. Ultimately, it depends on the ability of students to envision where a particular course can lead him/her to.

Visa Requirements

One of the great concerns for the international students is to obtain a visa. In this regard, education agents have a crucial role to disseminate the accurate information about visa procedures.

In general, a genuine student with strong academic credential and a good English score is unlikely to get rejected for studying at Australian Universities. Here, your education agent should be able to offer necessary information this.

Cultural Orientation

Students coming from different parts of the world find it difficult to adjust to the new environment in their destination countries. To ease their adjustment, education agents have the responsibility of giving a general overview of the culture, norms, and values to the newly arrived students.

So, the role of education agents can’t only be confined to academic counseling but needs to be elevated to a level of socio-culture, economic and political orientations by which students can better understand their host country and prepare accordingly. Helping to link international students to the diaspora of the respective countries is a great thing.

Challenges

The constant challenge prospective international students face is related to the choice of  the best education agents. Choosing  experienced education agents duly certified by the universities is a must to get into Australian universities. Knowing about the fees that such agents charge and cross-checking it with other similar institutions will be beneficial for students to get quality service at an affordable charge.

International students may seek the assistance of education agents for a permanent visa or placement assistance even after they finish their studies. But it is important to keep in mind that education agents can’t guarantee such visas. They can simply offer help in visa application process.

As per the Australian law, an education agent can’t offer the service of a migrant agent until he/she is a registered migration agent. So, students need to be cautious of seeking migration related advice only for certified professionals instead of going to education agents for everything.

As an international student, you need to have an in-depth study your potential education agents by their success stories and reputation in the market. This in an important key for your informed decision based on available data and information before evidence and rather jumping to someone in haste.