By Matthew Knott, News Editor of Study Travel Magazine

One of our top news stories this week is a wonderful endorsement of the value-added service that an agency offers to clients, and I would recommend that any institutions pondering whether to use agents or not, and indeed immigration departments worldwide, take notice.

The Turkish agency association UED publishes visa acceptance rates to the major study travel destinations every year in its member survey, and I obtained overall acceptance rates from the UK Home Office to examine the difference.

In 2013, the overall approval of Turkish student visa applications to the UK was 85 per cent, but for clients of UED members the average was 95 per cent. The difference was even greater in previous years.

As UED’s Coordinator, Gokhan Islamoglu, notes in the story, this is down to a number of factors including the association’s good relationships with the embassies and consulates and regular training sessions and updates for members.

But most of all, this is a reflection of the professionalism and knowledge of their member agencies. Islamoglu says that agents need to be honest and steer students away from any unrealistic expectations as well as ensuring visa applications are fault free. It is, of course, in agents’ best interests to ensure their clients’ visa applications are successful, and with the UK tightening the visa refusal threshold for institutions with Tier 4 licenses to just 10 per cent, the value of using well-established agents from the associations couldn’t be clearer.  

In other agency news, we report that the Loyalist Group, a private equity firm that owns a group of Canadian schools, has acquired another Korean agency, adding Kim Okran to the purchase of at the end of last year.

Loyalist Group describes this, in somewhat corporate speak, as part of its “vertical integration strategy”, and says this will provide additional turnover for the company, drive student numbers up and reduce recruitment costs. 

This may well be true, but I do wonder what rival Canadian schools that are current partners of the two agencies may think if their student numbers start declining over the coming months. It also noteworthy that the Korean agency sector appears to be ripe for acquisitions at time when the outbound study travel business is at its lowest ebb for several years, according to our recent agency surveys in the country.

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