The Chinese education agency landscape has proliferated
with the deregulation of the government licensing
system and increased competition benefiting underlying
professional standards, as Callan Quinn discovers.
ISSUE #25 | THE PIE REVIEW | 19
WHEN THE CHINESE Ministry of Educa-tion
deregulated the education agent industry
three years ago by removing deposit and licen-sing
requirements, it paved the way for an explosion of new
agents where there had previously been a monopoly.
The move legitimised a market of unlicensed education
agents operating around the country, of which Igor Skibickij,
COO at Bonard market research and data specialists, says
there were thousands.
“Any day, someone from the government could have
entered their office to carry out due diligence, potentially
resulting in legal issues if the agency was not licensed by the
Ministry of Education,” he recalls.
”Such agencies were not officially allowed to adver-tise,
and often had to market and operate beyond both
mainstream and official public media channels.”
While today it is estimated that the old titans such as JJL
and New Oriental still have well over 50 per cent of the mar-ket
cornered, agents who honed their skills working for them
have formed their own groups, offering cheaper alternatives
to traditional counselling firms.
Data released by the Australian government last year sho-wed
that in 2018 73 per cent of applications from Chinese
students to study in the country were made through agents.
More tellingly, a total of 152,591 Chinese students enrol-led
in programs that same year, yet agencies were respon-sible
for signing up an average of just 84 students each.
Stakeholders say an expansion of choice when it comes
to education counselling has led to greater trust between
parents, students, agents and educational institutions ab-road.
They expect that in the next few years the market will
become more stable, diverse and – in some cases – specia-lised
as it adjusts to its newfound freedom and the evolving
demands of clients.
Most Chinese students applying to university abroad
continue to use agents. Despite more and more educational
institutions striving to offer information about themselves in
Mandarin – and some even setting up representative offices
in the country – their services remain a mainstay in the
process of applying to study abroad.
Part of this stems from the comparative difficulty foreign
entities face when trying to operate in the country compared
with local ones, meaning it is more convenient for institutions
to have local partners. But for students, agents as intermedia-ries
are invaluable when it comes to navigating language bar-riers
and a very foreign application process (entry into Chinese
universities is dependent on exam scores, with statements and
extra-curricular activities having little influence on success).