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February 11, 2012

Are Student Recruitment Agents Creating More Dickinson Universities?

Dickinson State University is now the poster child of how some unscrupulous agents can bring down a University and threaten the reputation of a country's reputation. DSU awarded nearly 400 degrees to unqualified Chinese students as the University was found to be "seriously lacking controls and oversight", mostly due to use to agents which in turn led to misrepresentations and use of unofficial transcripts.

According to an internal review report by North Dakota University System a major issue was lack of requirement of using official academic documents. Students in collusion with agents were submitting their own versions of transcripts. The report notes "Transcripts are a basic excel spreadsheet where the student can enter any class or grade they desire. Some students have submitted transcripts from two different universities as either they just used the template and forgot to change the name or they simply copied another student’s transcript. These transcripts also have the official stamp from the university which can easily be a “cut and paste” which has been proven by a DSU professor. Additionally, these university stamps are sold in the markets in China and on the internet, thus anyone can buy one. DSU accepts these as official." (p.20)

Apart from issue of official transcripts, agents were misrepresenting and overpromising to students themselves. "From 2008 onward there is a noticeably rapid decline in the level of documentation in the student’s files....Through interviews with current Chinese students, the recruiters told them and several other students, they work for DSU and not a recruiting agency....The recruiters promised the potential students they will get their DSU degree before they finish their required classes at their home university" (p.14). The report asserts that agents in China were not performing according to their contracts. "They [Agents] admittedly are driven by quantity of student and not quality as was communicated in an email from one of the agents in China." (p.19)
 Recommended solutions in the report:
  • "Terminate all agreements with the agents. Use DSU recruiters to do your recruiting at the approved partner schools." (p. 19) 
  •  "Require all international students to send official, sealed transcripts directly from their institution to World Education Services (WES) for authentication and a course by course evaluation within their first term of enrollment. 
  • Require a bank statement in the form of a letter directly from the bank. 
  • Require all students from non-English speaking countries to take and pass only the TOEFL or IELTS test prior to admission." (p. 20)

In such an unfortunate situation, I hate to say "I told you so" but here are my earlier posts on the warning signs:

Agents for international student recruitment: Have we not learned anything from Australia and the UK?

The Changing Profession of Admissions: From Counselling to Selling?

International recruitment agents: Playing with fire?

Recruitment Agent Debate: Are Institutions Ready for Disclosures?


Thoughts/comments?

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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