Degree Name

MA in International Education

First Advisor

Kevin Brennan


Perspectives among American higher education professionals are changing and more colleges and universities in the United States are embracing the recruitment of larger numbers of international students through the use of commercial recruiting agents. Higher education professionals in the United States are challenging previously held notions regarding agents in an effort to expand the use of commercial recruitment as a practical strategy in increasing international enrollments on American college campuses and creating new revenue streams from internationalization efforts.

This qualitative study documents the progression of a contentious issue in the American tertiary education community. The knowledge accumulated and presented provides a background on issues surrounding the agent debate and either challenge or support existing beliefs, while taking into account lessons learned from Australia's experience with agents in an attempt to re-focus the issue away from economic rationales and global market share competition, towards emphasis on higher ideals of international education and international student recruitment.

The resulting implications from this study conclude that in the U.S., choice to utilize agents remains with individual schools. Higher education institutions that face financial challenges or have little recognition overseas are most likely to use agents. This paper also illustrates that when international student recruiting rationales over-emphasize economic benefits, risks emerge in tarnishing brands of education, as seen in Australian higher education. Furthermore, the de-centralized nature of the U.S. higher education system makes it difficult to develop a national strategy for approaching the agent debate. This paper suggests that the US should collaborate with Australia, to engage in best practices and maintain high ethical standards in recruitment practices to best meet the needs of both institutions and international students.


Education | Educational Sociology | Higher Education Administration | International and Comparative Education | International Relations