The Badger has seen a document which shows that the University of Sussex has signed contracts agreeing to pay commission to “recruitment agents” of up to 15 percent of the first-year tuition fees of each international student that they enrol.
The paper also suggests that if agents’ agreed annual targets are met and exceeded, they can obtain bonuses.
Though details of how much the university has paid out in bonuses and commissions are not forthcoming, the university has said that the payments made to agents “do not represent money we could otherwise keep at Sussex.”
This revelation comes only days after Pro-Vice-Chancellor Chris Marlin’s letter to the Badger, in which he responded to the article ‘Are international students commodities?’, stating that: “[T]he staff in our international student recruitment team are employed on exactly the same terms and conditions as other staff at Sussex. They do not receive bonus payments or commission for overseas students who come to Sussex.
“Approved educational agencies overseas who counsel, advise and refer students to us do so on precisely the same financial terms as for all other leading universities worldwide.”
The University of Sussex has a high international student population, with one in every five coming from overseas.
Tuition fees for them currently stand at £10,475 per year – three times that of Home and EU students – but this figure only applies to classroom-based courses, with laboratory and practical based courses costing each student £13,375.
If an agent successfully ensures that seven students enrol at Sussex, ten percent of the fees are paid as commission. This means that if seven students on non-laboratory based courses are registered, agents will receive up to £7,332, while seven students registered on practical-based subjects will bring up to £9362.
If the agent’s efforts lead an eighth student to enrol at the university, they will additionally gain 15 percent of this student’s tuition fees and 15 percent of each student’s fees that they recruit thereafter.
So, for each individual student that the agent recruits after the seventh, they will gain a further £1571.25 for students studying classroom-based courses or a further £2006.25 for students that study practical subjects.
Amid concerns regarding the work of agents who recruit students for commission-based payments, the University of Sussex defended their use, insisting that: “If we did not use agents, the number of students we could reach overseas would be smaller, fewer students would benefit from a Sussex education and the overall income for the university would be that much less. No one would benefit from ending a relationship with high quality overseas agents.”
Furthermore, the university maintained that this practice is “typical in the UK university sector.”
In fact, it is certainly not uncommon, with many universities across the country employing agencies such as these to improve the profile of the university to potential international students.
The University of Sussex has stressed that: “The use of these agents does not alter admissions requirements for international students. Nor does the question of whether a student applies through an agent or not alter the academic consideration which we give to their application.
“All students are given offers based on their merit, irrespective of whether they apply through an agent or not.”
The list of the university’s agents can be viewed online at: www.sussex.ac.uk/international/representatives.