Dirk Mulder warns of bad business in international recruitment

Incentivising agents is back


What universities can do to about lower on-shore international student numbers has been a point of discussion since the borders closed (CMM 21 Jan 21). Discounting and scholarships appear to be the new normal, however bonus commissions campaigns for agents are back, if they ever left.

CMM has seen the terms of a bonus scheme a university is offering to Indian and Nepalese agents. The sliding-scale scheme is structured to reward agents who up their student numbers for the university. The university provides a table which outlines top-line commission aggregates. If the agent recruits 70 students, they can make a possible commission of $427,500. Not bad for years a work.

This is not illegal and commercially astute for the university involved. But CMM wonders what behaviour these campaigns, outside incentivised contracts, drive

Agent networks are an important feature in the recruitment cycle – that is for international students discovering, understanding and preparing for Australian study. However, many in the sector believe this sort of bonus scheme is one step too far. A Learned Reader tells CMM it shines a bright-light on ethics in the industry – with agents enticed to send students where they earn the best commission rather than on what is the best avenue of study for the student.

Australian universities already have a highly-commercialised reputation and an increase in bonus schemes of this sort would push it to a new level. The questions are, is this an over-step by an institution desperate to plug the hole caused by international student starts being down, down, down due to COVID-19 border-closures? Or is it an example of what will become standard recruiting procedure?

Whichever, it is not sustainable

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent