Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Australian Education Agents - We’ve got them all

PIER Agency Finder - www.pierapps.com
In a little over a year, the PIER Agency Finder has grown from being simply an idea, to now containing accurate data on 3291 education agencies in 4587 offices, spread across 115 countries worldwide. We are confident that we now have every education agent representing the Australian market listed in our database, so I thought now would be a good time explain how we have achieved our goal.

Over the past 7 years working at PIER, I have been in charge of the development of 3 separate, unique systems that are accessible by education agents in some form or another. These 3 systems have been developed at different times and for very different reasons, but they all contain core functionality targeted at agents. As these separate systems evolved independently, it became clear to us that the fragmentation of this data was causing an administrative headache, and thus a new suite of products emerged, based around a core, central data repository.

The PIER Agency Finder is the crux of these new products and is where we now store all agency-based data. We store Agency data representing an organisation, and also Office data representing each physical office location. We also store the employees working within each office, all of whom have access to maintain their offices’ subset of data via their own dedicated system, the Counsellor Dashboard.

We have gathered this data via systems like the Education Agent Training Course, the Australian Homestay Network and the newly released ICEF Agent Training Course. We have also dedicated a lot of time and resources to gathering data the old-fashioned way - by manually recording it from public websites, for example. Lastly, we also allow counsellors themselves to add their own office to the list if we don’t already have it.

Now that we have reached our goal of storing every education agent representing Australian providers, we are proud that our hard work has paid off. The PIER Agency Finder is now the most comprehensive public listing of education agents that exists today, and we are dedicated to maintaining the accuracy and currency of all data represented within it.

This system now powers the ACPET Agent Directory, the AIRC Agency Finder and a number of others. It’s also tightly integrated with the ICEF Agent Training Course and the Australian Homestay Network and we are planning on increasing it’s reach within the industry.

I suspect some of you may have got a little lost with the ‘tech-speak’ that is inevitable in a post like this, but hopefully you’re still with me. I will continue to post more tech-oriented articles in the future while Chris’s posts will be more industry-specific.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

International Education In Australia; How can I make a difference?

The past 12 months have been a challenging time for any institution offering programs within Australia to international students. An industry that had been very proud of its achievement in becoming Australia's $18 billion-dollar export poster child, employing more than 125,000 people, has found itself facing a barrage of negative publicity and sliding enrolments since student safety issues came to a head in Melbourne in 2009. Regardless of what or who is to blame for the slide in reputation of "Brand Australia", an uncomfortable truth has dawned on many - the Australian public barely cares.

As an industry we imagined that the benefits to Australia of our activities and the presence of international students in our institutions and society are self-evident and as a result, we haven't focussed the necessary energy on arguing our case. I, like many others, observed the xenophobic pronouncements on migration from all quarters in the recent federal election and was deeply disappointed. Bruce Baird recently noted how the Australian Government would willingly support an ailing (and strategically insignificant) car industry but would not dream of considering any form of help to international education to weather the storm. Even though visa changes have played a key negative role. I believe an important difference in the way we are politically considered is international education's well-educated, white-collar workforce can be expected to re-train if need be, and there is not the concern in the community of loss of employment that accompanies any prospective problems in a "blue-collar" industry.

So what can we, as individuals, achieve to turn this around and get the positive vibes following again?

When we have conversations with people outside of our industry, we've got to start converting people to our cause and explain the basics time-and-time again. There's a need to get the simple messages out and not get bogged down in arguments about the rights and wrongs of higher education funding - important for sure, but no political side will change this set of circumstances so it's all in the realm of the hypothetical. In my conversations, I try to stay away from discussing the financial benefits where possible but I do make sure I get in the following points:
  • International students, through the funds they contribute, help Australian students access more courses, they never "take" away available places in higher education. Yet 50% of the general population believe this!
  • Very few international students will actually migrate permanently to Australia (10-20%) - regardless of our attitude to increased migration or the future size of Australia's population; we should have nothing to fear by having them as guests in our country for a few years.
  • Just because the Government undervalues and underfunds Higher education, and Universities look to gain revenue from international students, that's not a reason to decry the quality and value of the educational experience that such students gain in Australia.
Normally, I'm pleasantly surprised how easy it can be to change opinions once these are explained - but I have had to work hard on some occasions...

Just think, if 125,000 people just spoke to 10 people that's a million people on our side.

Let's get to it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Manager of Student Affairs - Carnegie Mellon University, Adelaide Campus

Manager of Student Affairs
  • Must possess a strong professional, yet nurturing work ethos
  • Must be attracted to the intrinsic rewards of developing a strong supportive relationship with talented scholars from around the world
  • Must thrive on making a measurable contribution to a small, dynamic team
Carnegie Mellon University, a top ranked American university is seeking an experienced professional with a passion for working with talented postgraduate students at its campus in Australia, Adelaide.

The Manager of Student Affairs will be a student advocate, who takes ownership of, and pride in providing a broad range of support services to students, while valuing international education and diversity.

This is a hands-on role and the candidate must be capable of providing the high standard of personalised support to students for which CMU Australia is renowned.

Tasks include:
  • Pre and post departure planning and assistance
  • Facilitating housing and accommodation
  • Planning, development and implementation of student events
  • Alumni relations
  • Assistance with writing resumes, job applications and interview techniques
  • Assistance with securing internships
  • A significant role in the graduation ceremony
The successful applicant must possess:
  • Analytical, project management, communication and problem solving skills
  • Excellent verbal and written communication
  • Strong computer literacy
  • Record keeping and data management experience
The university is an equal opportunity employer which offers a competitive compensation package commensurate with skills and experience.

For more information and a copy of the job description please contact Debra Mules on +61 (0)8 8110 9919.

An application, a resume and cover letter, can be submitted to dmules@andrew.cmu.edu addressing your relevant skills, experience. Previous candidates need not apply. Applications from agencies will not be considered.

Application closing date: 28 October 2010.