How to Select an Education Agent
Here’s a list of education agents covering every region of China, together with their contact details.
When it comes to studying abroad, you have the option of doing everything yourself: for example, you could examine the websites of universities; you could determine their admission criteria; you could create a shortlist of the universities that you like and that might be reasonably likely to accept you; you could contact the universities for information about application procedures, about visas, about immigration policies; you could complete the application forms and gather together the supporting information; and finally, once accepted by a university, you could arrange your overseas accommodation and books your flights. However, carrying out all these tasks not only involves a great deal of hard work but may also call for knowledge and expertise that you do not possess. Fortunately, there is a simple solution, a workaround: you can use the services of a local education agent, one who will arrange everything, or almost everything, on your behalf – well, will arrange it at a price!
Some education agents are based in a single region; others have offices scattered throughout China. Focus on those that are located near to where you live. Usefully, some education agents will offer you a money-back guarantee: if, given your grades, they fail to get you a place at a university on a jointly agreed shortlist, they will give you a full refund.
The range of services offered by education agents varies widely: services can be divided into the following categories (with many agents focusing exclusively on services in the application and logistic categories):
Incubation services help you to determine which subject to study and to develop relevant personal and academic skills.
Application services assist you in selecting a university and in preparing a successful application.
Logistic services arrange accommodation and travel on your behalf.
Induction services help you to get settled in overseas before your course commences.
Ongoing services assist you, as required, after your course has commenced.
Employment services assist you in gaining employment after your course has finished.
Decide not only on the services that you want to make use of immediately but also on those that you might have need of at some time in the future. Focus on those agents who can provide the full range of services that are, or might be, of interest.
Here is a list of some of the services that an education agent might provide, broken down by category:
Course content and structure
Reading and writing skills
Interview, presentation, and debating skills
Local facilities navigation
Orientation week mentoring
Agents as University Representatives
Some overseas universities retain the services of a number of education agents – university representatives – based throughout the regions of China. Each education agent will have a number of overseas universities on its books; it will be familiar with the application procedures for each of these universities, and it will usually be officially accredited to some, though not to all.
Universities would, in an ideal world, prefer to deal directly with prospective students. But universities know only too well that many Chinese students select universities using the services of education agents, and so universities are very keen to work with these agents so as to maximize the number of international students on their courses – universities generate substantial revenues from international student tuition fees.
If you are interested in attending a particular university and want to determine which agents act as its accredited representatives in China, then search the university’s website using the keywords “university representatives China”.
Bypassing Admission Standards
What if you don’t meet the official examination entry requirements needed to get into an overseas university, or into the overseas university of your choice? Well, an education agent may well have a workaround.
Universities are caught between a desire to apply common admission standards for all applicants and a desire to maximize operating profits. More often than not, profit maximization wins out, and universities are prepared to surreptitiously admit international students who fail to meet the requisite academic entry criteria:
Official university policy is not to rigidly apply a set of admission criteria – there is always an element of discretion.
Staff in a university’s international student office (ISO) are often placed under high pressure to meet international student targets; it is therefore hardly surprising that ISO staff members may be prepared, on occasion, to “relax” the entry requirements for international students.
Life being what it is, some ISO staff members in some universities may be financially rewarded by some agents for exercising their discretion in an “appropriate” manner.
On occasion, an undercover reporter – one pretending to be the parent of a prospective student – will approach education agents in China, and will be told by the agents that they can get the student offers for certain courses in certain universities despite the fact that the student’s grades fall well short of the examination entry requirements. For example, you might find the Telegraph article A Place at University Guaranteed or Your Money Back to be informative. In this article, it’s interesting to note that, even when challenged on the issue, the university in question was prepared to state officially that it reserved the right to accept “international students who narrowly miss the terms of their offers, on a case-by-case basis”. Of course, what constitutes a “narrow miss” is conveniently left undefined. And education agents know only too well that some ISO staff members can be persuaded to interpret this phrase very charitably, especially when many places still remain to be filled on a particular course.
Backhanders and kickbacks excepted, the methods used to “relax” the entry requirements rely on loopholes in the admission procedures or are contingent on aspects of the admission procedures where there is discretion on the part of the university:
There is the issue of trying to map examination grades obtained using a different educational system on to that used by the university processing the application – a task where discretion can readily be exercised.
While a course may have as a prerequisite a specific set of subjects, an ISO staff member might use his or her discretion to include some other subject as an acceptable alternative.
Conditional course offers are common. For example, if your English language skills fall below those required for a particular course, you may still receive an offer with the proviso that you take and pass a pre-sessional English language course of a specified duration. Universities offering such courses generate additional revenues, and they may exercise their discretion as to what constitutes a pass on a case-by-case basis.
Grades alone are not the only factors that influence whether an offer will be made: written submissions – such as personal statements and additional written work – are also important, and discretion can be exercised as to their importance relative to examination grades (while written submissions are meant to be prepared by the student making an application, agents often provide assistance – sometimes writing the entire submission on behalf of the student, as detailed in the Telegraph article The “strategic partners” who offer Chinese students a route to UK).
Incubation services support preparatory activities that take place well before you start the university application process – activities such as those listed in the section entitled Gaining an Advantage. These activities provide you with information on a specific subject and enhance your personal skills. The objective is to ensure that you know exactly what is involved in studying a particular subject, and, as importantly, that you have the requisite skills to ensure you can study it effectively and can obtain a good degree classification.
Education agents rarely offer these services, as they only tend to get involved once you start the formal university application process. So you may have to undertake these activities by yourself, or seek tuition and advice elsewhere.
Course Content and Structure
How do you know which subject to study at university? Personal preferences aside, it should be a subject that can lead to a good degree classification. Chinese students are highly motivated and often take on very demanding courses relative to their academic abilities – whereas close to 70% of students graduate with a degree classification towards the upper end of the range, this is true for just over 40% of Chinese students.
So you need to know in advance what will be expected of you when following an undergraduate or a postgraduate course in a specific subject. An education agent may be able to specify – for a typical university course in the subject of interest – how much of your degree classification will depend on your performance in examinations, personal assignments, workgroup assignments, presentations, and debates. You can then decide whether the balance is right based on your personality traits, skill sets, and interests.
Even more importantly, an education agent may be able to specify, on average, how much time is allocated to complete a personal assignment; how many pages of material you’ll be expected to speed-read; how complex that material will be; the length of the essay you’ll be expected to write; and the standard of writing required in order for you to get a good grade. An education agent may be able to provide you with a specimen recommended reading list for a typical assignment and a specimen of what a well-written assignment looks like. You can then assess whether you could process the reading list and produce an essay of a comparable quality within the specified time frame. If not, then you may wish to consider a different subject, or you may wish to take additional tuition – whether before travelling abroad, on a pre-sessional course, or on an ongoing basis throughout your course.
If you’re considering a postgraduate course in a particular subject, then you may want to acquire an overview of the subject; you may want to obtain an understanding of what aspects of the subject are being actively researched; and you may want to determine whether the research expertise you would develop by following the course of study would be likely to lead to future employment opportunities.
Education agents – through their university connections – may be able to provide you with a set of online links to material that can answer these questions. Then when it comes to selecting a university, you can tell the education agent what particular aspect of the subject you want to research, so that the agent can identify candidate universities with the requisite facilities and expertise.
To gain more information about research opportunities or to subsequently assist you when applying for a place at a high-ranking university or for a job, you may wish to contact researchers with relevant subject-matter expertise. Bear in mind that there are many Chinese researchers working at overseas universities, and some of them will be keen to provide you with advice to further your education and career – advice that may be particularly salient given your shared background.
Education agents – through their links to universities – may be able to provide you with a suitable collection of email addresses for researchers working in a particular subject area speciality.
Reading and Writing Skills
Overseas universities place great emphasis on personal assignments, but Chinese students often lack the necessary skills to produce a well-written assignment within the required time frame – skills relating to time management, critical thinking, English language proficiency, and speed-reading.
Some education agents may be able to recommend training and mentoring that is specifically intended to enhance these skills while you are still at high school (see the sections entitled Improve Your Reading Speed and Improve Your Writing Speed for some of the techniques that can be employed). If not, they may be able to book you into a pre-sessional course at the university of your choice, one that will prepare you for the demands of writing personal assignments.
Interview, Presentation, and Debating Skills
To gain entrance to some universities, you may need to attend an interview. Do you have the skills to put yourself across in a confident manner, the skills needed to guide an interview? If not, then you may need some coaching.
Many courses at overseas universities require you to make presentations or to engage in debates. Do you have the skills to do so effectively? Acquiring these skills takes time – private schools in English-speaking countries often spend years cultivating these skills in their students.
Some education agents may be able to recommend training and mentoring that is specifically intended to enhance these skills while you are still at high school, whether you are studying in China or abroad.
Application services are used to help you in selecting a university, to assist you in making an application for a place on a particular course at a particular university, and to support you in making any other applications that may be required when travelling abroad – among which is invariably a visa application. Almost all education agents offer application services.
You may not live close to an education agent, or to your preferred education agent. Some agents will be prepared to visit you at home so that they can discuss their services and can gather the information needed to complete an application.
University selection is the service where education agents prove most useful:
It takes a great deal of effort to look at the websites of a hundred or so universities, to see what they have to offer, to determine their admission criteria. However, based on your examination grades, an education agent will immediately be able to suggest which universities are likely to accept you, greatly reducing the number of universities that need to be considered.
And even if you are prepared to expend the time needed to search university websites, you will only get information on their official admission criteria. However, an education agent will often be aware of how you can bypass these criteria for some courses at some universities.
But bear in mind that a given education agent may only have a relatively small number of universities on its books and that another agent might well be able to suggest other universities at which you might also be accepted. So, initially, it might be worth asking a number of agents to list the universities in their portfolios and to then suggest which of these universities you might be able to get into based on your examination grades.
Education agents will be familiar with the application procedures of the universities in their portfolios. They will be able to fill in the application forms for you. They will also be able to help with the preparation of written submissions – by suggesting what a particular university will be looking for in the context of a particular course (though they are not supposed to do so, some agents will even prepare the entire written submission on your behalf).
A pre-sessional course is a course you take before starting the main university course. An education agent will be aware of the pre-sessional courses offered by each university on its books, and it will be familiar with the relevant application procedures.
For example, what if your English language skills are too poor to gain admission to a university? An education agent would be able to tell you, for instance, that the University of Surrey, UK, offers pre-sessional English language courses, and that even though you don’t meet the university’s English language requirements for admission, you would still be offered a place provided you took and passed a pre-sessional course lasting for a specified number of weeks. Many universities offer pre-sessional courses in English for international students – perform a Google search using the keywords “pre-sessional course” and the name of the university of interest.
In order to study abroad, you’ll need to get a study visa. While you can get some advice on the application process from the embassy of the country concerned or from the international student office of the university to which you are applying, an education agent can usually offer detailed information on why some visa applications are accepted, and some rejected.
While English-speaking countries welcome the revenue that overseas students bring, they are not always so keen for those same students to stay on and join the labour market following the completion of their courses. Education agents will be aware of the shifting policies on immigration in each of the countries where they operate, and they will be able to suggest how best to word a visa application so as to maximize the likelihood that it will be accepted. For example, the Telegraph article A Place at University Guaranteed or Your Money Back illustrates the type of specific guidance on a visa application that you might receive from an education agent.
Logistic services are used to arrange accommodation in the host country, to arrange travel to and from the host country, and to arrange travel within the host country. Almost all education agents offer logistic services.
Some education agents will book accommodation for you in the host country. It might be university-owned accommodation, private rented accommodation, or accommodation owned by the education agent. When an education agent has a number of students attending the same university, then arranging shared accommodation may well be worthwhile, particularly as the more senior students, who have experience of the country and the university, can assist those who are travelling abroad for the first time.
Some education agents will arrange flights for you to and from the host country. Some will book travel for you within the host country – such as trains or taxis to take you from the airport to your accommodation.
Some education agents will arrange an escort to take you from the airport in the host country to your accommodation. Some will also arrange for an escort to accompany you on the flight – to ensure you collect your luggage at the other end, to see you through customs and immigration control.
Some education agents will arrange an induction process to help you get established in the host country before your course commences, a process that might introduce you to fellow Chinese students, might assist you when registering with the police, might guide you on a tour of the local facilities and the university campus, and might suggest events of interest during orientation week.
Most universities have a substantial number of Chinese students, and most university cities have a Chinese community. Some education agents might introduce you to fellow Chinese students or permanent residents, to people who speak your language, who understand your background, and who can help you to settle in and to cope with the stresses and strains of life at university. One of the advantages of such introductions is that some of these individuals may be able to assist you with other aspects of the induction process, as listed below.
While the immigration process is initiated before travelling abroad, there are always details to finalize on arriving in the host country – details such as getting a Biometric Residence Permit or registering at a police station. As always, there is the “where”, the “when”, and the inevitable forms and paperwork that must be completed.
An education agent may be able to supply instructions that you can follow, or may be able to provide you with a mentor who can accompany you and who can answer any questions you may have about finalizing the immigration process.
Local Facilities Navigation
Before you start your university course, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local facilities – taxis and trains, doctors and dentists, and, of course, the whereabouts of the local Chinese supermarket.
An education agent may be able to provide you with an explanatory guide, or may be able to provide you with a mentor who can give you a tour of the local facilities and who can answer any questions that you may have about settling in.
Before you start your university course, it is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the university campus – the locations of lecture theatres, laboratories, libraries, and the all-important international student office.
An education agent may be able to provide a mentor who can give you a tour of the campus and who can answer any questions you may have about “what’s what” and “where’s where”.
Orientation Week Mentoring
Universities usually designate the week that immediately precedes the start of courses as orientation week, an opportunity to find out about university life and university organizations, an opportunity to meet fellow students with similar interests.
An education agent may be able to provide a mentor who can explain what happens during orientation week, who can suggest events that might be of interest, and who can answer your questions about life at university.
The services offered by education agents usually come to an end when your course starts. However, you may well require assistance at various times throughout your course of study, and some education agents will be able to offer you additional services as and when the need arises.
Studying overseas can be stressful. It can lead to depression. While a university will offer some limited pastoral care, an education agent may be able to provide support that is better tailored to your background and your personal circumstances.
Succeeding in an overseas educational system – with its emphasis on personal assignments – can be very challenging. Some education agents will be able to arrange tuition to help you understand your course materials or to improve your English language skills.
If your writing skills are poor, then some education agents will offer a proofreading/copy-editing service to help you improve the presentation of your assignments.
Note that some education agents may offer to get an entire assignment written for you by an essay mill. However, the outsourcing of assignments to third parties is strictly prohibited by universities, and doing so might lead to a reduction in your final grade classification or to your expulsion from the university.
Some education agents will be able to arrange part-time work or a part-time internship while you are studying abroad, either during term time or, more likely, in the breaks between terms. Depending on its nature, this work experience could prove a valuable addition to your CV.
When your course has finished, an education agent may be able to assist you in obtaining employment, whether in China or overseas.
Some education agents will be able to assist you to find employment should you decide to return to China following your course of study (according to the Chinese Ministry of Education, about 80% of students return home following their studies). Some agents may have contacts with employers who are specifically interested in the skills you acquired while studying abroad.
Some education agents will be able to assist you to find employment should you decide to work overseas, either in the country where you studied or in a different one. They will be familiar with the regulations surrounding visas and work permits for the countries in which they operate.
Education Agent List
Here’s a list of education agents covering every region of China, together with their contact details.