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Agents cash in on Kenyans seeking education abroad

17 June 2013, 10:35 Bedah Mengo

Nairobi - Agents of foreign institutions of higher learning in Kenya are having brisk business as the number of Kenyans seeking to study abroad rises.

The agents are earning tidy sums of money from students who want to further their education outside the country.

Majority of students who want to study abroad go through them as they seek information on colleges, fee requirements, and courses.

The agents also advise both the undergraduate and post-graduate students on Visa requirements of the country they want to travel to, the best place to find accommodation when they arrive on campus and airlines to board as they travel.

For all these, the universities pay them a tidy sum of commission for each student they successfully help to enroll.

The commission is between 5 percent and 10 percent of the total amount of fees the student is to pay for the course he is to study. However, some universities pay as much as 20 percent commission.

Therefore, if a student is to pay 7,060 U.S. dollars for a three-year course, the agent can earn as much as 706 dollars if the student successfully enrolls at the foreign institution.

"Business is good. More and more Kenyans are leaving the country to study abroad, which means good business for us," Martin Njoroge (not his real name), who partnered with a colleague to become an agent of foreign universities in Kenya, said on Saturday.

The agent noted the number of Kenyans seeking education overseas has been on the rise as foreign universities intensify search for students in the East African nation.

Indeed, the institutions of higher learning have found Kenya a fertile recruitment ground. The universities mainly from Europe, Asia and US are in cut-throat competition for students from Kenya.

Each day, they place adverts in local dailies asking students to attend their education fairs. While some from one region or country partner and hold the fairs, others do them independently.

"Parents and students are invited to attend our education seminars in above named towns. Come with academic certificates for on-spot admission. Partial scholarship available," said a recent advert of a university in Europe in a Kenyan daily.

The university was holding the seminars in five towns across the East African nation in partnership with a local agent.

Once they have held fairs, which happen once a year, the universities leave the rest of the work to their agents in Nairobi.

Most of the foreign universities' agents are based in the central business district and Westlands, an upmarket district on the outskirts of the city center.

Njoroge's office is located at Bruce House in the city center and he handles work for at least five universities, three in Europe and two in Asia.

"When I returned from the U.S. about four years ago and joined hands with a colleague, who also had been in the country, to start the business, not many Kenyans were seeking foreign education," noted Njoroge, adding that his first client was the university where he was studying.

The number has, however, been improving as foreign universities enhance their publicity locally, more students are locked out of universities in Kenya and fee rises.

"A good number of foreign universities, including some in U.S. and Europe are cheaper. Which makes them attract Kenyans, especially those who believe when they go to local universities they will not study the courses they want," he said.

At the building, there are dozens of businesspersons working as agents of foreign universities.

"The number has been growing over the years. When we started about four years ago, we were about two of us in this building. But now we are close to ten and all of us are working for different universities," he observed, adding he helps dozens of students quarterly to join foreign universities.

However, the high season is usually in March and September when most universities are starting new academic years.

Most students, according to Njoroge, are going to universities in Europe, U.S. and Asia. Africa is not a favorite destination.

"In Asia, Malaysia is a favorite destination. Universities from the country have successfully marketed themselves in Kenya. Besides that they are cheap and like many others, they offer instant admission, including using Mock exam results," he said.

Some of the students the agents assist learn about foreign universities through newspaper adverts and attend fairs.

However, a good number visit agents' offices, tell them what they want and then they help them get admission at various universities.

"I searched online and found a university in North Cyprus, which was offering the course I wanted to study and it was cheap. I went to one of their listed agents in Westlands, Nairobi and got on-spot admission," said Valarie Ngoma.

The agent advised her to pay for full accommodation and stay in campus then she can leave once she has learned the country after first year.

"That is what we always advise our students. It is better one stays on campus first year and then shift later if she finds university hotels are expensive," said Njoroge, who is planning to expand his business to Mombasa and Kisumu.

- Xinhua

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