EAIE Conference debates international issues

22, September, 2014


The changing role of agents in higher education international student recruitment was among the topics debated at the annual European Association for International Education (EAIE) Conference in the Czech Republic last week.


Jan Muehlfeit, Chairman of Europe Microsoft Corporation, gave the opening plenary address at the EAIE 2014 Conference

Taking place at the Prague Congress Centre, the three-day EAIE 2014 attracted around 5,000 delegates, including academics, international student recruitment staff, agents and service providers, for a range of workshops, seminars and networking events under the theme of Stepping into a New Era.

Among the scheduled sessions at the conference was The Changing Role of Agents and Consultants, in which a panel debated the continuing necessity of agents and how European universities with minimal tuition fees can work with agents.

Chair of the session, Martin Bickl of Goethe University in Germany, said he could see usage of agents for recruitment becoming more common at German institutions. Kerry France of Bond University in Australia argued that the traditional agency model was not past its peak, as higher education was becoming more commercialised and internationalised, and added that satisfaction with agents was generally high.

Suggested alternative models to a commission payment basis for European universities with minimal or no tuition fees included agents conducting marketing and other services in their territory for a fee, the use of private pathway providers that do pay commission, and agents charging counselling fees to students.

In another session, Towards a ‘one student visa’ for the EU, Ilse Schenk of Nuffic in the Netherlands outlined the potential benefits of current European Commission proposals for an EU-wide student visa, which would provide a single residence permit for non-EU students, and would standardise processing times, minimum part-time work rights and post-study job-seeking terms.

Claire Hermann of the European Commission revealed the proposed legislation had had a positive first reading in the European Parliament and that she was optimistic of arrangements by the end of 2015. However, she cautioned that the UK, Ireland and Denmark had opt-outs from the legislation.

Other seminar topics at EAIE included internationalisation strategies, digital marketing, selecting student fairs and exchange programmes.

Opening the conference, EAIE President, Hans-Georg van Liempd, said, “The exchange of ideas, knowledge and perspective are needed more than ever before.” The Mayor of Prague, Tomáš Hudeček, welcomed delegates to Prague and noted that the city attracts over 10,000 international students. “Graduates need an awareness of international issues. Higher education institutions need to prepare graduates for the challenges of international life,” he commented.

In the opening plenary keynote speech, Jan Muehlfeit, the Czech-born Chairman of Europe Microsoft Corporation, extolled the virtues of focusing on people’s strengths rather than weaknesses, both in the academic and professional world, and argued for the potential benefits of technological change in education. “If we change education, we can change the world for the better,” he said.

Networking events at the conference included EAIE’s Networking Dinner and Dance, which was held at the Žofín Palace in Prague, as well as a number of drink receptions. The 2014 EAIE Award Winners were also honoured during the conference.

The EAIE 2015 Conference will be held in Glasgow, UK, from 15-19 September at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre.

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