The Feedback survey in this month's issue canvassed students enrolled on English language courses at university-based centres in the UK. Satisfaction rates were up on last year's results, and the proportion of students who had booked through an agency was also up. There may not be a connection between the results, as different institutions were involved in the survey, but it is easy to assume a link between professional counselling and placement by an agency and high satisfaction rates among students.
As some readers reveal in our Industry issues section this month, placement of a student is only part of the job for a professional agency. They say that they all ask for feedback from students once they have finished their language course placement so that the agency can refine its service, better understand what students want and what makes a good language course and share information with their partner schools.
Having a partner agent who cares about the success of a school as much as the school itself is an inestimable advantage, especially when the school may be going through difficult times, as testified by one school in New Zealand.
I attended the Canada Language Council conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, earlier this year, and enjoyed meeting many Canadian educators and sitting in on sessions and presentations. While participating on a panel discussion about working with agents, I realised that a number of universities in Canada have not yet begun working relationships with agents, being in some cases concerned about the concept of ''agent'' or alarmed because of stories of bad practice.
While university-based institutions have traditionally been slower to embrace commercial ethics concerning student recruitment - and this is true of all countries - nevertheless, most now seem to acknowledge that in the business of selling education services, business strategies such as using partner agents, or student recruiters, are a good idea.
In New Zealand, education agents are so valued by the main education export body for the country, Education New Zealand, that it was instrumental in persuading the government not to include education agents in the new licensing of migration agents bill. Such respect for the important role of professional education counselling is heartening to see.