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Wednesday, March 6th, 2002

Special Issue March 6, 2002


David Brown (, Associate Vice President of International Cooperation for Brock International, recently issued a statement in which he called for greater scrutiny of potentially damaging arrangements with unscrupulous agents. Following this, Kevin Thompson of the Canadian Embassy in China (kevin.thompson@dfait- echoed the call for a forum in which administrators can voice their experiences and insights. We are pleased to offer at least a modest forum for such an endeavor.

What steps can Canadian higher education institutions take to minimize the risk of embarrassments and frustrations?

In 1997, we at Higher-Edge (then Bazaar 2000) began working on behalf of Canadian universities in countries considered in the field as “high fraud”, devising a diligence methodology to screen out disingenuous applicants, and in the same way, creating a “chilling effect” to dissuade potential applicants from manipulating our clients to serve fraudulent ends.

Our work involved foremost, the creation of local information offices, which also served marketing objectives. We required students to sign waivers enabling us to verify their representations; in itself, promoting our seriousness in checking credentials. We developed excellent relations with academic institutions abroad, as well as with registrarial staff involved in the verification of academic documents. For the most complex cases, we retained local lawyers. Finally, our methodology involved face-to-face contact with the preponderance of student applicants. Hence, thanks to our country-specific practices and assessment abilities, we enhanced our abilities to flag problem cases.

In terms of results, we have provided our clients with high yielding sources of top quality students who pay, stay and display a positive attitude on campus. As for our under-resourced immigration staff abroad, they see in our methodology a win-win approach; one that enhances their ability to open and close the gates of student admission with a higher probability of appropriateness.

For those seeking to work with overseas agents who are largely beyond accountability under Canadian law, we urge a similar level of judiciousness and diligence. Many scams and rip-offs perpetrated by overseas agents are subtle. The instance cited in Dr. Brown’s earlier clarion call was one nifty such example.

Institutions can secure steady flows of students while at the same time lowering the risk of abusive agency relationships, or involvement with students of fraudulent intent or representation. However, this dual outcome requires not only financial but also institutional commitment as well as preparedness for change. It requires a dedication to exploring the bona fides of documents. It requires firm policies on requests for advance-paid tuition refunds. It requires learning the nuances of high-fraud countries so that deserving students are rewarded for their integrity instead of lost in the unexamined stream of every manner of student. It involves regular visits, and ideally a continuous presence in target markets.

Presently, we are launching a trial service in Pakistan for Canadian institutions. We have developed a service to verify the academic representations regarding any student for whom the institution has some doubt. If the trial is successful, we will be offering this service in other countries as well as to overseas institutions.

As for verifying the appropriateness of agencies, this is a service that we are presently offering in many countries throughout Asia, from Turkey to Indonesia. To learn more about how we can help, contact Mel Broitman at

Please direct questions and comments to Isabelle Faucher:
Overseas, Overwhelmed is a publication of Higher-Edge


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