The first ever accreditation mechanism for education agents promoting overseas education has been instituted by the British Deputy High Commission and the British Council.

Seventeen agents from south India received Education UK certificates of accreditation at an award ceremony held by the British Council last Thursday, following completion of a three-month training programme. The programme was designed to develop detailed knowledge of the U.K. education system, U.K. culture and student lifestyle, scholarships, quality assurance mechanisms, and application and visa requirements.

The accreditation is recognised by all institutions of higher education in the U.K. and the U.K. visa department, which will fast track applications received through accredited agents. “Seventy per cent of all applications to U.K. universities are through education agents,” said Kevin Woods, head of visa department, British Deputy High Commission. “We recognised the need to professionalise and standardise interaction with agents and to improve transparency and objectivity, particularly in relation to U.K. visa applications.”

Certified agents are now part of the U.K. Government’s Trusted Partnership Initiative. “We already had knowledge of the U.K. education system but we were not aware of the niceties. The information on quality assurance standards was very helpful. Now we can give unbiased, accurate information on courses and make comparisons for students,” said George Kurien, director, Education Overseas Consultants.

“Accreditation separates out genuine agents from fly-by-night operators” said Giego Sakkaryas, director, IMPT Consultancy Services. “If there is any breach, agents will be suspended.” “This brings regulation to our industry. In India there is no association of independent agents. This type of system restricts the business of education, which requires knowledge and experience, from becoming anybody’s profession,” said CB Chellakumar, chairman, Campus Abroad.

SARAH HIDDLESTON