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June 1, 2011 - 4:15am

I’ll be blogging from #NAFSA11 in Vancouver, Canada for the next couple of days. This year’s Annual NAFSA Conference brings together over 8,000 international educators from countries around the world.

I practically ran from the airport to a session on agents and recruitment: Opportunities and Challenges of Working with Education Counseling and Recruitment Agents. Readers at University of Venus may recall that I’ve written on this topic in the past. At this NAFSA session, Mitch Leventhal headed up a panel that included Markus Badde from ICEF and Greg Thompson from the US Department of Commerce.

I am a big fan of Mitch’s and the work he is doing with AIRC (American International Recruitment Council). It seems that others are interested as well since this session was standing room only. I had to beg and plead to get into the room, waiting outside club-style -- as one person came out, another went in.

In the US, international strategy, like most things in the higher education industry, is developed at an institutional level. This differs dramatically from countries like Australia where higher education is viewed as a major export and strategies for international recruitment and industry standards are developed at the national level.

During this session, the questions from the audience reflected the irregular internationalization of higher education institutions in the US. While some institutions are incredibly savvy about the recruitment of international students and have been working with agents for over twenty years, at the other end of the spectrum are institutions where the word “recruitment” vaguely brings to mind athletes, musicians, or other hand-picked individuals with some rare talent.

In open forums like these, it becomes painfully obvious that while many institutions do not have recruitment strategies, even fewer have international strategies and it is the rare institution that has both. Sadly, the institutions that could most benefit from an international recruitment strategy are most ill-equipped to develop such a plan. Viewed through this lens, Leventhal’s work almost looks like charity. AIRC works with institutions to help them develop their capacity to work directly with agents and so much of this is basic education about international recruitment.

However, working with agents only makes sense if your institution views recruitment and internationalization as key components in an overall strategic plan. For many institutions, recruitment plans are siloed into admissions and internationalization is something that is given a mention here and there in annual reports, mission statements, and presidential speeches.

Before institutions can be persuaded to work with agents, they will need to see the advantage, and ultimate necessity, of developing an international recruitment strategy that is part of a larger, institution-wide internationalization plan.

Tomorrow morning’s session - Global Trends in Internationalization.



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