International Student Recruitment Agency vs. Service Provider, What is the Difference?

Schools and students around the world recognize the value of pursuing education outside one’s native country. Over the last ten years, the total number of international students in the United States has increased by over 63%, according to The Institute of International Education’s Open Doors Report. Forward-looking institutions have discerned the incredible benefits of hosting a multi-cultural student body and have initiated growing and enhancing their international student outreach. However, in a volatile market with over 20,000 agencies and organizations operating worldwide, it can be difficult to understand where value truly lies and how you can protect your international students by choosing the right partners.

But is the difference between a recruitment agency and a service provider, and how can schools better protect their brands?

A Recruitment Agency (agency) is a company specializing in the recruitment of international students. The agency derives income through commission-based recruitment of these students, primarily upselling this service through their existing customer base currently using language-based prep courses targeted for an English education of any level (Kindergarten through university) and thus is contingent upon the referral of applicants or enrollees.

A Recruitment Agent (agent) is an individual recruiter or sales rep working in a solo capacity or as an employee of an agency. These agents typically have an established local presence and are based in particular regions abroad. Different agencies specialize in referring students to specific countries or concentrate on specific educational levels (e.g., secondary vs. boarding schools, higher education such as undergraduate and graduate programs). Most agents interact with prospective students and families in-person to advise them on study abroad opportunities and help with admissions or application assistance.

A Consultant or Service Provider is defined as an organization providing fee-based services to students and schools about the admissions process, residential needs, academic support, and other related functions, and who is paid solely by the individuals or families they counsel. Many consultants and service providers concentrate on assisting and supporting international student needs once they arrived in the United States. Service providers also serve students in multifaceted ways, including travel agency services, tutoring and test preparation, and immigration consultancy. A service provider usually has dedicated personnel to handle business processes such as marketing, student advisement, invoicing, and relationship management with partner schools. Service providers offer market expertise and value-add services to a school’s overall international program, including but not limited to:

  • Assess for school readiness for international recruitment.
  • Establish institutional protocols for their international program.
  • Develop admissions contracts with school and student protections in mind.
  • Identify and screen prospective agency partners ensuring they meet market standards.
  • Oversee residential program and natural parent communication, securing trust and smooth student.
  • Deliver professional development to understand the international education industry better.

Each year, Cambridge Network invites all of its school partners to our annual School Summit, allowing officials to meet their Cambridge support team and engage in meaningful discussions around the international student industry.

Our team is committed to providing measures of agency quality assurance for its partner schools alongside continued professional development for any partner in the form of trainings, certifications, and assessments to ensure best practices for international student recruitment and program compliance. Cambridge Network hosts several agencies conferences across Asia to bring together the top recruitment agencies to establish sustainable and positive practices for student recruitment.

Cambridge Network provides a team-oriented approach to agency relationship management and oversight, including a dedicated point of contact. Many schools don’t have enough dedicated staff to manage and grow an international student program on their own. Therefore, a service provider can be vital to implementing successful student growth and diversification in enrollment that a recruitment agency would not be able to do on its own.

Visit our blog section to learn about industry trends, international program best practices, ways to engage students, and more.

For schools looking for more information on Cambridge Network and our services, please submit an inquiry form.