By Nicola Hancox, Editor of Study Travel Magazine

StudyPortals, an online student platform, has released a report in conjunction with the British Council and International English Language Testing System (Ielts), which analyses the world’s top 500 universities, through the eyes of the student.

Their mystery shopper approach – a team of international students navigated their way through the top 500 universities’ websites measuring information accessibility and findability – has drawn some interesting conclusions that many of us can learn from.

Perhaps one of the most surprising results relates to enquiry response time, with just 37 per cent of the world’s top 500 universities responding to a student online enquiry in less than a day, and a further 20 per cent not responding to a student enquiry at all! In terms of world region, North America was at the forefront of quick response times. Asia, however, was at the very bottom of the spectrum. 

The ‘Facebook generation’ rely heavily on online information, but as the report suggests, the process of collecting material is not always straightforward. “The challenge of filtering information from multiple institutions across many countries is difficult and very time-consuming especially considering the global and intercultural context of the student audience,” summarised the report.

Although the report sought to raise awareness of the need for more transparency in regards to information online, in my mind it’s the perfect advertisement for agent usage. As last week’s news story on agent usage by the OBHE served to highlight, agents can and do play a vital role in the school/university selection process.

Agents that specialise in higher education placements are well-versed in the overly complicated admissions process. They are invaluable in: guiding students through the myriad of study choices; filtering through complex university jargon; giving advice on language proficiency tests and visa requirements and have university contacts already in place, smoothing a student’s path to admission success.

Agents cannot afford to ‘ignore’ enquiries and a majority pride themselves on quick response rates. “It is very important,” notes an agent Spain. “With great competition between agencies, that can mean that you get the student or that the student goes with another agency!”

“Responding quickly and precisely and correctly to clients nowadays is what is driving business!” says another agent based in Albania. “You need to have these three qualities when counselling students, or otherwise, it will be too easy for them to stop the ‘word-of-mouth selling’ and also choose another agency to get the fast service they always ask for.”

Students: look no further. 

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