Following mounting reports of agents squeezing schools and families for commissions in return for poor-fit placements, Stephen Spriggs spoke out this week, calling for transparency and impartiality from education consultancies, and the need for regulation if things don’t improve.

The founder and Managing Director of leading London Education Consultancy, William Clarence Education, voiced his concern in a new blog article this week, branding the advice given by some international education agencies an ‘awful and morally corrupt practice’ that places students with the highest bidder, regardless of suitability and fit.

Steve Spriggs

Steve Spriggs

Mr Spriggs commented:
“William Clarence is hearing far too often from families who have been given poor advice from agencies. The result of this? Students being placed in a poor fit school, only to then be moved again while the agency collects a second commission.”

The article also highlighted the detrimental effect such practices have on schools, who are relying more than ever on international and boarding students yet appear to be paying out more and more in agency fees to attract them. Agency fees can typically be anything between 10-20% of first-year fees, which stands out as a clear conflict of interest for agencies who, often, have not visited the international schools they are placing for, or even spoken to them at length about their requirements.

Stephen Spriggs added:
“I think schools currently are being held to ransom by some agents, both domestically and internationally. They need good students, but the agent will only provide students if they receive high fees back each year – which can equate to 6-8k per student! That is not sustainable for schools who are already operating on thin margins, with numerous headwinds approaching in the coming years. It can’t be a surprise that schools are forced to use these agents, as they are in such need of interventional fee-paying students. For schools, this is a very expensive way of recruiting students, with many schools spending 50-100k per year on fees to agents for students.”

Mr Spriggs also offered a number of effective solutions for academic institutions, as an alternative to investing more money into agencies and advertising. These included:

  • Increased branding for key markets – locally and overseas
  • Establish and nurture close, trusted relationships with international partners.
  • Focus on targeting and narrow down student profile.

The article also stressed the need for more protections to be put in place to safeguard both institutions and students in these situations, and for consultancies and agencies alike to be held to a more ethical, impartial way of operating.

William Clarence Education is committed to transparency and impartiality in the services it provides to both institutions and families. Its school placement consultants do not ask for, or accept, commissions from schools for the students they place, and the firm’s main goal is to secure the best-fit placement for each student, rather than the highest fee. William Clarence prides itself on the excellent ongoing relationships it maintains with both clients and academic institutions.

For more information on William Clarence, its international education consultancy team, and the services it provides to students and families all over the world, visit


Agents, Commissions, Conflicts of Interest? Tackling bias in Education Consultancy. Stephen Spriggs. William Clarence Education. February 2019.

Education agents continue to play a larger role in UK recruitment ICEF Monitor. April 2015

Foreign recruitment agents ‘paid £120m’ by universities Graeme Paton. Telegraph Education. July 2013

Commission creep: ELT sector concerns rise over agent costs Amy Baker. The PIE News. October 2018

Agents paid an average of £1,767 per non-EU recruit Times Higher Education.

About William Clarence Education:
The leading education advisory and consultancy service in the UK. With an unrivalled reach into the UK Schooling and University network, William Clarence offers unbiased advice to students and parents from around the world; at every stage of their academic journey. From Independent School Application and Placement, full UCAS and University application consultancy, Oxbridge Applications, US College Admission and even Homeschooling programmes, William Clarence Education draws on a deep relationship driven network with schools, Universities and senior education figures within the industry. By putting the student and family at the centre of the process, William Clarence ensures their clients reach their maximum potential and gain access to the very best of UK education.

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Stephen Spriggs –

“Schools currently are being held to ransom by some agents, both domestically and internationally. They need good students, but the agent will only provide students if they receive high fees back each year.”

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