Scholarship agencies that send students abroad for education are recent phenomenon in the agency business. At the current moment they are firmly taking root and expanding their businesses, as the number of people planning to pursue educations abroad are ever increasing. Agencies facilitate opportunities abroad for students, from helping prepare them for exams, to corresponding with institutions and keeping families updated on situations abroad. The business is now more in demand than ever, as BINYAM HAILEMESKEL, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER, reports.
BDH International Business Plc, one of the pioneering private scholarship agencies, offers educational consultancy services for clients aiming to get their educations abroad. The agency was established in 1996 and operates with five employees and a capital of 300,000 Br.
“So far, we have had about 1,300 students go abroad. We send 20 to 30 students each term,” says Daniel Ezra, general manager of BDH.
His agency sends the students to different parts of the world such as Europe, China and Russia among others, where there are institutions which make agreements with his agency.
At the moment, the agency business is beginning to grow, according to Daniel.
“Around 60 people request our services each term,” he says. However, the number of accepted applicants is limited as each person needs dedicated time to fulfil their needs. Agencies of this sort search for educational opportunities and scholarships abroad for Ethiopian students. They also help them complete the application process to institutions. Students who are able to self-sponsor can also use the services to help with completing applications.
When students first start to use the service, they are charged 200 Br. Once the agency accepts the application, it processes the request and finds appropriate programs through discussions with the client.
There are benefits to using an agency rather than pursuing university applications alone, explains Daniel.
“We have long years of experiences in and connections with universities and funding organizations,” he says. In addition, the agency provides other services, such as career counselling and training for international exams.
If the admission steps succeed and the client is to move abroad, the payment could reach from 5,000 to 60,000 Br, depending on the case. The type of the discipline or the program could decide where the price stands at the end of the service.
Lefops Educational Services, another scholarship agency, has been open for business for five years, two years after it was started as a tutoring enterprise. The agency sends students to over 700 academic destinations that it has agreements with.
The agency’s main business is providing specialized educational counselling and guidance to prospective students.
“We offer students personalized counselling and placement services,” said Esayas Fekade, admission advisor at Lefops.
They have a large number of requests for students, according to Esayas.
“We receive 200 to 300 applications every semester,” he says. “Most of the time we proceed with only 20 to 30 applications.”
Many applications are rejected because students do not fulfil the Agency’s criteria, or because all they are looking for is for the Agency to find them full scholarships and send them abroad which is not the primary facility the agency delivers save in exceptions, according to Esayas.
“The agency does not find scholarships for students; it predominantly consults students who fulfil two criteria: excellent academic records and financial capacity to cover the tuition and related costs,” explains Esayas.
Esayas’ typical clients are high school graduates who have excellent results in the national higher education entrance exam and are from well-to-do families; they are self-sponsored.
In general, 95pc of the applications the agency processes are self-sponsored. The remaining are scholarships the agency facilitates for exceptional academic achievers, according to Esayas.
“We have had a 99pc success rate in our services in the past four years,” he says.
The Agency charges a 5,000 Br processing fee for an application. The final charge, which is conditional on the success of the application and admittance of the student, varies according to the tuition of the institution receiving the student.
“We charge 10 to 15pc of the tuition fee depending on the case,” says Esayas.
After the departure of students, the agency keeps a follow-up communications to make sure a smooth study situations.
“For instance, recently, some African students were attacked in India,” he explains. “Our agency is in contact with institutions in India where we sent students to in order ensure their safety and update their families.”
The agencies play a vital role in reducing time and energy consumed through self-processed scholarship and admission applications, according to Meseret Molla, a graduate of Civil Engineering from Bahir Dar University, who plans on gaining a second degree from a foreign institution. She is one of the users of BDH’s services.
“The know-how and experience of the agencies help students gather the best educational deal available and avoid the potential issues such as application errors and failure to keep timelines in the process,” explains Meseret. Students planning, like Meseret, to study abroad are not few. However, the future could be full of various challenges on both the agencies’ parts, and the students’.
In spite of their expansions, educational agencies still face many challenges.
“In the future, the main hardship could be the decline of funding opportunities,” says Daniel, from BDH. “Many students also face the problem of foreign currency to pay the test fees.”
There is also a lack of government support, according to Esayas from Lefops.
“It would have been a more successful sector if the Ministry of Education and Immigration Affairs supported us,” says Esayas.
The immigration process is also too cumbersome to attract prospective foreign students to study in Ethiopia.
“The effort to bring foreigners here for education has not been a successful enterprise,” explains Esayas. “If and when we bring foreigners here for our education services, not only can we earn foreign currency but also build a better image.”
However, private scholarship agencies are not supported or regulated by the Ministry of Education (MoE) Instead, the agencies obtain their licenses from the Ministry of Trade and run the businesses as private limited companies, as they are told the ministry has no scope of duty covering licensing.
Other countries have different experiences. For instance in Kenya, they have wider footing and effect in this undertaking, explains Esayas.
With challenges like these and others, the scholarship agencies are in a general overview, proliferating and becoming a trend in the country. Currently, many agencies exist in Addis Abeba that operate this type of business. The demand for their services does not seem to be slowing down at all.
“I know a few people who went abroad for education through agencies. I plan to use the same service and study in the United States,” said Samson Fekade, a student at Addis Abeba University’s Faculty of Business Education.
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