Rapid Surge in Education Consultancies and its impact

Consultancies agree to not post visa grant notices on social media

In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of Bhutanese individuals seeking educational opportunities abroad. As the desire for international exposure and quality education grows, so does the demand for education consultancies in Bhutan.

The Quality Assurance and Accreditation Division (QAAD), Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE), and Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) has registered approximately 63 consultancies and placement firms, signaling an escalating industry catering to the aspirations of Bhutanese students to study and work outside.

ABEC

The Association of Bhutanese Education Consultancies (ABEC) presently consists of 62 like minded consultants working towards common interests and a number of training consultancies and placement firms that have joined.

This association is in the process to become a registered CSO.

Its head, Palden Tshering said the ABEC mandate is to ensure quality services by all education and training consultants, promote ethical and responsible practices and protect the market from encroachment by external education agents that are not legally liable to anyone in Bhutan, as the encroachment has already started.

Secondly it’s to look after the interests of the industry to help newer consultants find their footing and understand the responsibility they have when it comes to providing people with the right information.

“Our mandate is to ensure that any Bhutanese seeking advice for education outside of Bhutan should have access to information that is correct, up to date and not misleading from any consultant under the ABEC umbrella,” he said.

“And finally it’s to uphold a standard of credibility, so which ever consultancy a student may visit they should be confident that they are dealing with a reliable office regardless of the final study destination,” added Palden.

No more visa grant notices on social media

There is a growing view that the aggressive marketing done by these consultancies are contributing to the Australia Rush which includes posting visa grant notices on social media to entice more students.

Here, Palden said they took a recent voluntary decision to not promote studying abroad through pictures of clients and testimonials receiving visa grants because it’s irresponsible advertising considering the concerns being expressed about the number of people leaving Bhutan.

It also infringes client’s privacy rights.

“It’s taken this long to come to a consensus because its a voluntary decision and there are certain business models that have developed entirely on the promotion of this format. We had a unanimous consensus on this, except for one individual that abstained,” he said.

Palden said that consultative meetings with the association members have also put an end to misleading information like 24-hour visa grants, low English scores accepted.

“This creates unreal expectations and directly contradicts what the Australian High Commission has advised the consultants to do. Our voluntary members consisting of 62 education consultancies and other training consultancies have agreed to work collectively towards responsible advertising. At the end of the day we are liable for what we post,” said Palden.

Consultancies boom

 SMART ECPF (Education Consultancy and Placement Firm), has witnessed a remarkable influx of applicants for visa processing, despite being a recently established firm, which shows the growing numbers of people opting to go abroad. One of the career counselors at SMART ECPF said that their clients are particularly inclined towards Australia as their preferred destination. The primary reasons cited by students include the fast visa approval process and attractive wages, coupled with the opportunity to work more hours.

A senior visa-lodging officer at VIEC, a leading education consultancy firm, stated, “The growing numbers of education consultancies do not fuel in the Australian rush, but rather the hope for better education and livelihood is what attracts Bhutanese people to move abroad.”

A staff member from Bhutan International ECPF said this expansion of firms is breaking the monopoly, and offering aspiring individuals greater choices when it comes to pursuing their dreams of studying abroad.

In the past, a limited number of consultancies dominated the market, which resulted in fewer choices for Bhutanese students seeking educational opportunities overseas. However, with the emergence of new consultancies, there has been a notable shift in the dynamics. Aspiring individuals now have the opportunity to explore various consultancies, each offering unique services, expertise, and connections to educational institutions around the world.

Speaking about the increasing number of Bhutanese seeking education overseas, Rohit Upreti, the proprietor of Australia Jogay, a prominent consultancy specializing in Australian education remarked, “We can’t stop people from moving abroad as global migration is an unavoidable phenomenon which happens and that also brings positive impacts to the country. That is how the country progresses further; however, it is also a matter of concern for a country with a limited population like ours.”

Pricing

Different consultancies assisting individuals in their pursuit of international opportunities have been observed to adopt different pricing strategies, leading to a growing debate within the town.

While some consultancies offer a no-charge policy for all their services, including securing an offer letter, until the candidate obtains a visa, others follow a fixed upfront payment model with subsequent higher charges during the processing stage with up to Nu 25,000 in charges. Furthermore, certain consultancies charge around Nu 7,500 per individual, with variations based on the services provided.

Interestingly, consultancies charging higher fees offer additional services such as Statement of Purpose (SOP) writing, Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) assessments, and Personal Statement assistance, to justify their increased costs. On the other hand, consultancies opting for lower charges do not include these additional services, leaving applicants responsible for fulfilling such requirements themselves.

The differing approaches have sparked discussions regarding the fairness and transparency of consultancy pricing in Bhutan. As the debate continues, participants are urging for the guidelines and standards to ensure transparency, consistency, and fairness across all consultancies, thereby enhancing the overall experience and outcomes for individuals seeking international education.

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One comment

  1. Gyeltshen Wangdi

    The reason for sudden increase in Consultancies is contributed by : Bhutanese based overseas, mostly Australia, who are PR holders that sponsor their relatives and friends to open an Office in Bhutan to facilitate the student migration process and work on a cost sharing basis. The consulting fee variation amongst the different entities is charged just to show income in Bhutan for Tax purpose. The actual commission received from different Institutes vary from 2,50000/ to 300,000 per student. so sending just 100 students can make some ones life very comfortable..

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