Students and AIRC

Studying in another country is a major investment of time and money for both students and their families who share the goal of improving a student’s career path. However the process is complex and requires patience and careful research.
Navigating an educational system in an unfamiliar culture and language is often complex and confusing. As a result many students interested in studying overseas choose to use student placement agencies for assistance.

It is critical when turning to a placement agency to understand its record of serving other students, the agency’s knowledge of the educational system of the intended country, and the strength of the agency’s relationship with its partner universities and schools.

Students using an AIRC Certified agency can be confident that they are being represented by an agency which is utilizing best practices and adhering to the highest ethical standards.

What Students Should Know About Working With International Education Agents

International education agents have many different business models. Some charge students for their services. Others receive payment from institutions following successful placement of a student. In some cases agents may receive payments both from the student and the institution. It is within your rights to know who is paying your agent. If in doubt, ask your agent or institutions you are considering attending.

What is an agent?

AIRC defines an educational agency as an organization, company or association that recruits and places students into accredited colleges, universities, secondary schools and other educational institutions on a commercial 'fee for service' basis.

How agents are compensated:

Agents are generally compensated for their placement services through a fee for placement, or commission. This may be a per capita fee or a service agreement fee.  The compensation arrangement is spelled out through a contract with the recruiting educational institution. Agencies in some parts of the world also charge fees to the students for their services.

Educational agents may also assist students in their application to universities without receiving compensation for the placement.

What kind of services do agents often provide?

AIRC is primarily focused on recruitment into U.S. higher education. For this sector, agents are helping to recruit students into accredited language programs, undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs, university foundation programs and short-term programs. U.S. secondary schools are also institutional members of AIRC. Agency help recruit students into recognized secondary schools.
  • The specific services agencies provide include:
  • Degree selection
  • Program application and admission guidance
  • Visits and interviews with visiting institutional admissions staff
  • Language training and testing

Agencies generally also provide:

  • promotional materials of educational institutions
  • hosting of educational exhibits and fairs
  • visa and immigration advice
  • career counseling

What should students look for in choosing an agent?

Look for agencies that have AIRC Certification
Agencies that have been certified by AIRC have demonstrated through independent review that they comply with 40 best practice areas, defined in the AIRC Standards

Here are some examples of what an agency should be able to demonstrate according to AIRC standards:

  • have expert knowledge about the educational system and admissions processes of the country to which they are recruiting (US and Australia, etc. are not the same)
  • have expert knowledge in visa and immigration policy and procedure and demonstrate a strong track record in clients’ receipt of study visas
  • are continually updated on the admission policies, fees, and academic programs, etc. of the academic partners
  • have a schedule of fees for services that is easily understood and equally applied
  • have policies about refunds and a complaints mechanism
  • can demonstrate they have active partnerships with the institutions they claim to represent
  • have educational counselors that have visited the campuses they represent and/or hosted campus representatives in the agency office
  • have been in business for at least 2 years and have a track record of placing students
  • make promises or guarantees only when backed by facts that they can be achieved (for example, be wary of agencies that guarantee admission, scholarships, work-study)        
  • provide legitimate documents to institutions which are properly notarized or attested as to their authenticity
  • have positive word of mouth and referrals from other students and families

What does it mean to be AIRC Certified?

AIRC Certification is an independent, non-profit, non governmental review processed created by the U.S. higher education community to ensure that agencies comply with AIRC Certification Standards. The AIRC Certification process consists of:
  • A background check of the agency and its owners to determine any financial or ethical irregularities.
  • A self study of agency operations based on the AIRC® Certification Standards. (The Standards are also available in Chinese.)
  • An external review of the agency offices, staff and management.
  • Comments from the public on applicant agencies.
  • A review of all records and vote by an independent certification board comprised of U.S. institutional members and education professionals.

Students and their families may reference the following list to determine if an agency is certified or they may contact AIRC directly if they have any questions about an agency’s certification or practices by writing to