BSA report: Chinese agents more important for independent school recruitment

Posted: 10th October 2023

Agents are becoming even more important in the recruitment process of Chinese students to UK independent schools, according to the latest survey of current and prospective parents by the Boarding Schools’ Association, which also shows more inclination towards longer-term study and work and satisfaction with the school experience.

The report, based on a survey of 943 parents of students either currently enrolled at a UK school or in the application process, is the third in a series by Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) and China education specialists Connexcel.

Agent usage: Agents were ranked as the top source of information, cited by 86.5 per cent of parents – an increase compared with 74 per cent in 2021. This was followed by school websites (52.5), recommendations from friends/family (46.9) and school visits (27).

The vast majority of prospective students intended to apply through an agent (86.27 per cent), which was an increase of 15 percentage points compared with the first survey in 2021.

“It is increasingly clear from our surveys, that agents have been playing a more and more important role in the admission process. UK schools need to be aware of this trend and work more closely with agents,” the authors said.

How Chinese parents plan to apply to schools. Source – BSA/Connexcel.

For prospective parents, local accreditation was a top factor in choosing an agent (96 per cent important or very important) along with provision of guardianship services 97 per cent, recommendations (77) and overall fees (67).

Of current parents, 88.49 per cent had applied though an agency, up from 78 per cent in 2021. Professionalism, accreditation and provision of guardianship were designated as the most important factors in choice of agent.

Study abroad reasons: In terms of reasons for studying abroad, the authors found that ‘pressure from the current Chinese education system’ as the top reason, cited by 73 per cent – up from 41 per cent in 2021, followed by studying abroad offering ‘a more well-rounded education’ (70). The chance of ‘entering a top world university’ has also increased from 33 per cent in the 2021 survey to 50 per cent this year.

Choice of destination: Security & safety and educational quality were rated as the top two factors in choice of destination – as in previous surveys – but employment prospects/immigration possibility was more prominent this year at 28 per cent, compared with only 12 per cent in 2021.

Other destinations considered: As a survey of UK-inclined parents, the UK was predictably the preferred study destination, but the authors found that the USA was also considered by 68 per cent of prospective parents, and that Canada, (30), Hong Kong (22), Singapore (15) and Australia (12) were also in the consideration mix.

Selection of school: In terms of choice of school, finding the right match between school and child was rated as very important or important by almost all parents (97.1 per cent), followed by league tables/university admissions (95.8), experience of looking after international students (95.3), school facilities (94.4) and reputation of the school (78.5).

John Zhang, Co-Founder of Connexcel, said that interest in the UK among Chinese students remains strong.

“It has been increasingly noted by parents that further education, graduate employment prospects and immigration policies are important contributing factors in making the decision to apply for the UK boarding school.”

Effect of potential UK changes: Prospective parents were also asked what impact potential educational changes would have. Oxbridge and well-known British universities increasing the proportion of students from private schools and the relaxation of UK work permit policies would have a positive impact, parents said.

Meanwhile, the imposition of VAT on private school fees and any shortening of post-study work rights would be negative – 67.1 per cent and 58.2 per cent respectively. Last week, StudyTravel Magazine spoke to UK associations and schools about the potential imposition of VAT by the opposition Labour Party if they win the next election.

Satisfaction of current parents of Chinese students at UK independent schools. Source – BSA/Connexcel.

Guardianship services: Among prospective parents, the percentage who had not heard/did not know much about guardianship services was 55 per cent, up from previous surveys. The authors said that schools and agents needed to focus on a deeper understanding of guardianship among parents.

The certification of a guardianship provider, either by AEGIS  or the BSA, was cited as the most important factor by 86.7 per cent, followed by the provider’s ability to understand the cultures of both countries and communicate bilingually.

Satisfaction with UK school experience: The highest areas of satisfaction among current parents were for extracurricular activities and diversity of course selection, campus safety, pastoral care and academic atmosphere.

Caroline Nixon , International and Membership Director of the Boarding Schools’ Association , said in the foreword that overall the responses were extremely positive.

“The many benefits of boarding education in the UK, ranging from portable qualifications which open the door to entry into top universities in any country in the world, to excellent pastoral provision, to networking opportunities, to increased confidence and independence, still exist.

“It is pleasing to note that their concerns around safety, security and the welcoming nature of our schools have decreased from last year. However, we need to note emerging concerns around the messages from our country as a whole about how welcome their children will be as graduates.”

Click here to access the full report from BSA and Connexcel.

Source: BSA report: Chinese agents more important for independent school recruitment – StudyTravel Network

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