AGGS Sessions: Agent 2023: Delivering the best student experience & ensuring sustainability in international student recruitment . The evolution of the agents, the role of technology vs personal engagement in recruitment and admissions


Adrian Mutton, Founder & Executive Chairman Sannam S4 Group


  • Karunn Kandoi, ApplyBoard
  • Suneet Singh Kochar, CEO, Fateh Education
  • Sushil Sukhwani, Founding Director & Owner, Edwise International
  • Akshay Chatruvedi – Founder LeverageEdu
  • Banit Singh Sawhney, CEO and Founder, Imperial Group

Welcome to the thought-provoking panel discussion titled “Agent 2023: Delivering the Best Student Experience & Ensuring Sustainability in International Student Recruitment.” Join us as our esteemed panellists, Karunn Kandoi, ApplyBoard, Suneet Singh Kochar, CEO, Fateh Education, Sushil Sukhwani, Founding Director & Owner, Edwise International, Akshay Chatruvedi, Founder, LeverageEdu and Banit Singh Sawhney, CEO and Founder, Imperial Group, embark on an exploration of the ever evolving landscape of student recruitment, focusing on the role of agents, the impact of technology, and the enduring significance of personal engagement in the recruitment and admissions process.

Guiding the discussion in the role of moderator is Adrian Mutton, Founder & Executive Chairman of Sannam S4 Group, a seasoned expert in global education and recruitment. Together, they bring a wealth of experience and insights to the table, offering a comprehensive view of the agent-driven recruitment landscape. Collectively the panel and Adrian will explore how the role of agents has evolved, the impact of technology on student recruitment and admissions, and the enduring importance of personal engagement in ensuring the best student experience. This discussion promises to uncover valuable insights for educational institutions, agents, and aspiring students alike. 

Five Key Takeaways

  1. Evolution of Agent Roles: The role of education agents is evolving beyond recruitment to encompass comprehensive student support services. Agents are increasingly seen as partners in ensuring students have a smooth transition, from admissions to post-arrival assistance.
  2. Balancing Technology and Personal Engagement: While technology plays a crucial role in streamlining processes, personal engagement remains paramount. Effective recruitment and admissions require a harmonious blend of technology driven efficiency and personalised guidance to meet the diverse needs of international students.
  3. Quality Assurance and Ethical Practices: Panellists emphasised the importance of quality assurance and ethical practices within the agent ecosystem. Ensuring transparency, compliance with regulations, and ethical conduct are fundamental to maintaining the integrity of the recruitment process.
  4. Enhancing the Student Experience: Agents and educational institutions are working collaboratively to enhance the overall student experience. This includes providing support with visa applications, accommodation, and cultural acclimatisation, ultimately contributing to student satisfaction and success.
  5. Sustainability and Future Outlook: Sustainability in international student recruitment involves adaptability and resilience in the face of changing global dynamics. The panel discussed the need for continuous innovation and collaboration to ensure the long term sustainability of agent driven recruitment.

Below is the transcript

Adrian Mutton

All right. So ladies and gentlemen, I’m really excited to host this session. 

Traditionally, agents in Hollywood are the ones that stand behind the stars and quiet in the background. While the rockstars make the money in India, the agents are the rockstars. And they are the ones that make the money. And in their case, they’re providing a fabulous opportunity to students to explore new horizons. 

So, without further ado, I’d like to open the panel up to each of you to talk a little bit about your philosophy for engaging students in India and the region. As a whole South Asia, we’ve had a couple of days of very productive conversations with foreign affairs ministry with diplomats, ambassadors, members of Prime Minister Modi’s policy team, as well as leading Vice Chancellors of Indian institutions and we have here many of the world’s most globally ambitious international institutions. 

Just to open up each of you and Sushil, I’ll start with you. Just talk to me a little bit about your view on how advisors go about recruitment and what you’re doing over time to change that experience for students.

Sushil Sukhwani, Founding Director & Owner, Edwise International

Thank you Adrian. 

I’d like to start off by saying, I’m the dinosaur in the room. I’ve been doing this for 31 and a half years. And when Ritika said facts, I said, yeah, that’s how it all started. 

So we’ve had to obviously innovate, evolve, and where we are today. And we need to keep up with a new generation of expectations that students have today. The instant connectivity, the instant information, the quick turnaround times, reaching out to them at all hours. So we have been evolving all through speeding up our teams or software systems, etc. And we will continue to adapt and evolve to meet the demands the student world has.

Adrian Mutton

Thank you, Suneet.

Suneet Singh Kochar, CEO, Fateh Education

So evolution as Sushil said, I think that’s very essential. If I look at it, generally the agency per se, the model has been evolving over time. If I go back 15 years ago, 20 years ago, information was limited to what students could get and it was dependent on what we were able to provide. It was a slow mail application that needed to be sent by post or by fax, waiting for all of it to be difficult to understand where you could administer it. So at that stage, our role would have been to help students identify where they qualify, help them understand where they should apply, because applying was expensive, and a very long process. 

It changed, Google happened, Google got better. We moved from what you would call information, get or moved away from not having information to information overload. You search for one thing, you probably got 1000 of those. ISo our role changed. We were more validators than we were in terms of students wanting to know am I going in the right direction?

Now, as we saw a little while back, it was said that we are now in the five second generation. We’ve now got intuitive AI, the Chat GPT, which will probably not even need the information, just put the question and you get all the answers within five seconds. 

You don’t have any information overload because it’s giving you just one result.

But then the question over here comes as for us is how we’ve always asked, what question should they be asking? Because if you don’t ask the right questions, you don’t get the right answers. And I think that’s the evolution we as agency are seeing is when our counsellors need to be able to tell them, how do they go, which is essential, because if you look at it, almost 90% of the students who are looking at studying abroad, they’re the first ones in the entire extended family going abroad. 

So they don’t really understand what questions to ask outside the first two or three parameters, you know, and that’s where defining the right questions becomes extremely essential. So that’s where I would say evolution, you know,

Adrian Mutton

Karunn, ApplyBoard has taken the world by storm, 4 billion plus dollars valuation bought the sponsorship of most of the media out there. So poor little companies like us at the end here can’t get any space in the news.

Tell us about the ApplyBoard story and where you’ve come so far and a little bit about where you’re heading.

Karunn Kandoi, ApplyBoard


First of all, I would like to congratulate Sannam S4 Group and Acumen for putting together such a huge show. I think, as an industry or thought leadership like this, a convocation of people to come together and share ideas is missing. So congratulations on that job well done. 

From the ApplyBoard standpoint, I think we have an advantage and the advantage is this company was founded by three immigrant students from the Middle East to Canada. So that puts everything in perspective of a student experience and agents and how we operate. 

One other thing that we have realised is counsellors and agents are here to stay.

Students have a lot of confidence in them. So our goal is to enable them to do their job better. And when we think of enabling our counsellors or agents, the thing that comes to our mind is selection. Can we offer limitless selections to our students? Convenience, can they do it quickly through one channel one partner? So that’s the second. Third is basically accuracy. This accuracy is picking up more and more now with different kinds of things that are coming up. So we want to make sure that whatever is done is done with utmost accuracy. 

And finally, the speed, to us speed of course matters. But it’s the fourth component in the whole system, because the journey itself is six months long for a student to get into an international school. But these are the four founding pillars on which we try to innovate and try to leverage technology to stay ahead of the game.

Adrian Mutton

Thank you, Banit?

Banit Singh Sawhney, CEO and Founder, Imperial Group

So I guess like any business, the counselling business is evolving, which means the communication flow is no longer one way, it is like an ecosystem. It’s like a social system, which is evolving. So for example, say a communication between a counsellor about a course, University etc, to a student, gets evolved in the ecosystem, which includes things like Instagram, things like what their past students experiences are. And the whole ecosystem, to and fro of communication in formal, informal may is taking out. 

So at Imperial, we realise this fact, in terms of just not like the whole, you know, accuracy of information, all of that comes in with technology. But the way evolution is happening, it is more like a social network, rather than a single form of communication. So that’s the evolution of counselling where not only as counsellors, we would be able to give but a lot of external factors, which will help students make the right decision or get them to the right choice. 

So that’s the way forward we I think, in terms of this industry is heading,

Adrian Mutton

I’d like to pick up on that point a little bit more. Our colleague Ritika Singh, in an earlier session, cited a statistic that was actually sorry, it was Sonu who represents King’s College London, who talked about a statistic that said that Gen Z have an attention span of five seconds, which I think now probably corresponds to the attention span of a goldfish. 

So you’re involved in creating dreams, fulfilling career missions to educate the world, you can’t do that in five seconds. So how do you retain the attention long enough for students to make the right decision, because this is the only time they’re going to make this decision? Once and only in their life, they’re only going to do one undergrad degree, one post grad degree. How do you keep that attention?

Banit Singh Sawhney, CEO and Founder, Imperial Group

It’s about constant reinforcement. 

So the first reinforcement will come from our counsellors which gives the primary information. The second reinforcement will come from some sort of university professor kind of interaction in which we’ll talk to him about the course and the curriculum. The third interaction will come from some alumni who will talk to him about what aspects of the course have organic job prospects they have after the course. So, that will be the third interaction coming in fourth could be any kind of social media Instagram handles Facebook, etc, which are showing lifestyle at that particular school or lifestyle or academic orientation of that particular school itself.

Their attention span is small but it gets consistently reinforced and then between the options he has and then he has the most number of options available ever right in terms of where he wants to head or what he wants to do. So that attention, but constant reinforcement of these effects will make him the right decision or the most appropriate decision in his career growth. 

That reinforcement is what we kind of have these activities not only with counsellors but agonising, Professor sessions, and a lot of other, extended things which make a difference.

Adrian Mutton

We’ve seen a tremendous rise in interest post pandemic in overseas education from India and the wider South Asian region and universities overseas welcoming that with open arms, particularly because of a slowdown of interest from China. That accelerated interest is putting pressure on both the agents’ channels. And on the universities themselves, they’re just struggling with the number of applications. turnaround times are much slower quality of applications is is regularly cited now as being at its lowest point for universities. 

Karunn taught us a little bit about what you’re doing and ApplyBoard to address the process of a student application and how and where you see that still needs to be improved.

Karunn Kandoi, ApplyBoard

Thank you Adrian. 

That’s the question at our heart all the time, because we have a two way responsibility. We are responsible towards our amazing partner schools across the board, to make sure that we provide them the best quality students with the best quality education. We are moving more and more towards things like manual processing of applications to automating them by the ways of OCR, by the ways of instant validations of documents through various channels and stuff like that. 

The result of which is, I’m very proud to say that our acceptance rate is 95%. Once an application gets submitted from an applicable portal, the chances a student would get a positive offer is 95%. Because we share that load from the school stand to us, we make sure that every application goes through the enabler, hands off our experts, and then only it gets submitted. 

So within that process, starting from when an application is being built, providing the suggestions to the students to make it better, and to the RPS to do it better. From that point all the way till it gets submitted to a school and giving schools the insights that this application probably stands at a level of 75th percentile of the students that you have accepted in, in the past is, is the magic that we are trying to create and see where we end up with it.

Adrian Mutton

We’re talking about efficiency of process and timing, Akshay, seems rather ironic, welcome.

Akshay Chatruvedi – Founder LeverageEdu

Thank you so much. How are you? Good to see you.

Adrian Mutton

Good to see you. Good to see you. I’m sure you’ll catch up very quickly, I’ll come to you in a second.

Suneet quality is key to institutions, particularly the Acumen portfolio, they work with us to drive quality, as well as volume, but also a lot of diversity. So you’re juggling three very different factors there. How do you balance the three when you’re managing student interest in that pipeline that you’ll pass on to your University foreigners?

Suneet Singh Kochar, CEO, Fateh Education

Okay, so how do you manage diversity, I think diversity, it’s not diversity in terms of students who are coming in, the concern comes in everybody wanting the same courses, despite where they’re starting off from. If you look at it, you know, 10 years back, data analytics, data science courses started to come out. 

It did attract attention, but not so much. And then suddenly Harvard HBR called it the sexiest job of the 21st century. And then everybody on their Uncle wanted to do data analytics. 

Today, if you look at it, I don’t think it’s the sexiest course of the 21st century anymore. Because there are more people that have been turned out in the school so that it would. So what you need to do is, when at our end, what we have to talk to the students is when they come in, we discuss where are they coming from? What are they actually seeking from it, because, it’s easy to fall prey to herd mentality, not it’s not a herd mentality. It’s actually validation. You find easy validation through it. And that’s why you end up picking up the same courses and authority. And if you have to build diversity, we really, really need to speak to them to understand why they are seeking what they’re seeking. And invariably, you will realise there are certain aspects which will take them to an alternative course, which will actually benefit them a lot more, but it’s just about trying to awaken them up into asking those questions. That’s always been met.

Adrian Mutton

Sushil, you’ve been in the industry probably longer than most of us. And you were there in the early days where Ritika’s fax machine was still relevant and students were looking forward to their communication whirring through the living room. How has that person to person interaction changed? Do you still see the same type of interaction 30 years on, or is the interaction very, very different now and how is it evolving?

Sushil Sukhwani, Founding Director & Owner, Edwise International

So the interaction now has evolved. 

Earlier, a student would probably visit us two or three times, even before they decided to make an application. And maybe then the parents came, and then the application would start. Between starting the first visit, and the last visit, many years ago, it would be maybe eight or 10 visits to our office, face to face. 

Today, I’m struggling to find out whether it’s once, twice or thrice, okay, but they yet want to come to the office, but at what stage in the engagement lifecycle is to be yet figured, because they might just want to inquire, and maybe come when they want to apply. 

Sometimes they come to inquire, but they will not come in, they apply, they just email everything back to you. And they might even just come at the visa stage. Sometimes they don’t need help with the visa. But that is what we feel, because we are very much a b2c entity and been wanting to work in the model of face to face and servicing the student end to end, we see students always will come even when we’ve had people from a city where we don’t have an office, we’ve serviced them, maybe for three months, four months, but they will visit some office along the channel, and come and engage but now less than before.

Adrian Mutton

Akshay, we were talking about how the Bassari brothers were real living case studies of their own business as immigrants who’d come out of the Middle East and studied in Canada. You wrote a very endearing post on LinkedIn earlier this week about your own journey and how you’ve come back to India and built a fabulous recruitment business from the ground up. 

I’m sure what you set out to do was very much a blank sheet of paper with a semblance of personal experiences thrown in. How’s that journey evolved? For you as the CEO of leverage, you’re the founder and CEO, and how has it changed in the short time that you’ve grown your business to the scale that you’ve grown it?

Akshay Chatruvedi – Founder LeverageEdu

Now, first of all, Adrian, thank you so much for having me here. And a very distinguished panel, if I may say so. 

I think one thing was very clear for me, when we were starting up, that education is not the be all and end all, there has to be employment at the end of it, at least in the late 2010. So the early 2000 20s, it’s very clear that nobody wants you to have a great degree of trade on the wall. It has to serve a purpose. 

A big reason that the UK got to where it did in the last couple of years is because Brexit happened, a big reason you’re seeing a resurgence is because of certain policy changes that we have had a chance to discuss over the last couple of months. 

it’s, it’s very clear that what you’re really, of course, this is part about aspiration. The other part that kind of really sells on what you are really offering is a bright future for this person. And how do you do it in the most trustworthy way? If I may kind of say so. So I think that was always our focus from Day Zero. How do we build different tools that can establish trust? How do we do things without thinking about revenue from day one? 

Luckily, we were built in a way where we could do things for free for a certain period of time, right or wrong is, of course, subject to scrutiny. But we built out multiple tools for the student, we built out what is the largest content factory for the student, we built out large communities where people could essentially have peer to peer interaction about their dreams, their aspirations. And this is a massively aspirational category, right. Like, last night, I was watching this. I don’t know how many in the audience are seeing this web series on Amazon Prime called Jubilee, which very interestingly is set in the 1940s, and how cinema was coming up. And the main character, the guy who sets up a studio in India, comes from Germany. The guy who works with him, his biggest aspiration is life. I said, I want my kid to study abroad. And I actually kind of took a screenshot of what I was gonna tweet about it, but aspiration runs so deeply to go and study abroad, to essentially go and work abroad. And to really kind of dive into that consumer insight at a very deep level. I think some was very, I think the speaking about engagement cycles and how do you kind of how many If times you will meet, I think over time people have developed trust in the face in the space largely, they know that the audit companies who have been there for a certain amount of time will not run as sly when it operators take my money and disappear the next day. 

So think how do you kind of as an industry, I don’t think we are essentially competing with each other, right? We’re essentially competing with all the folks who are in Samsung Soderlund, there’s a thing I’ll just spend like 10 seconds on it. 

Some two, six year students had to come back from Canada, because they had forged documents. So I think largely, as long as we’re building a future, which is more trustworthy, more student friendly, more in line with giving the student as many free tools as possible to really decide what is right for them. I think we’ll just kind of keep going on the same line. For me specifically, we’ve been doing exactly that. Even today we do about 200,000 counselling. So a lot of times people come to us and say, okay, you know what, but the conversion on that is very weak. But we want to continue doing that, because we really want people to understand what is right for them. Hey, kids, studying abroad is not right for you. Maybe there’s this great manufacturing school, somewhere in Ahmedabad or somewhere down south. And Tata is putting up this very massive factory with Apple again, maybe this is the right destination for you. I want to do sports management. Hey, maybe this university in London or the one in Sydney is better for you. 

I think it’s very important to align our and that’s what we feel at least align our incentives, align our thought process, align our product strategy, engagement strategy with the student. And as long as you kind of continue doing that, this is a market that will keep on giving, would love to share more, of course.

Adrian Mutton

Yeah. Great, great thoughts. And I want to build on that a little bit, and this is open to anyone that wants to step forward on the panel. 

You’re right, this is a collective effort, we’ve all got a responsibility to do the right thing by what in southern Asia is almost a quarter of the world’s youth population under 25. There’s a responsibility not just on fulfilling their dreams and providing them routes to great careers. But these are going to be the change makers of planet Earth over the next generation or two. So actually, we carry a huge weight of responsibility on us. And if the machine breaks down through all of you, we have much bigger problems further down the line if those students don’t get a quality education and don’t get the opportunity to fulfil the job openings that many other countries are recruiting them to fill where they’ve got their own gaps of experience. 

You talk about partnership, they’re synonymous with the Sannam S4 Group and Acumen. We’ve made a very deliberate effort over the last six months to engage many of you and have more constructive conversations about how we work together. Most of you represent a good number of our Acumen university partners. 

Akshay you’ve been kind enough to host me in your offices. A few months ago, we had a good roundtable with Suneet. And so Sushil and I just before Christmas, I’m regularly on the phone to Mhetti. I always feel overdressed when I talk to him and his T-shirts, but he and I have regular conversations. We’ve got many of our university partners here. How do we work closer together as organisations to make the process more compliant, more streamlined, and more efficient, so that we can expand what we’re doing in a way that the sector embraces it in an even greater way than perhaps they currently are? 

Anyone want to offer any suggestions? Akshay?

Akshay Chatruvedi – Founder LeverageEdu

I’ll try to comment without too much gibberish. 

I think the core word in this business when it comes to universities is matchmaking. I think that’s the only word which is important. A student who’s unfortunately not able to do well, in the academic setup. And not just in India, when I’m saying that I mean other emerging countries, be it large parts of Africa, large parts of South East Asia as well. 

A kid is not able to do well in that academic setup does not really mean that he or she is not a bright kid, that kid is getting 50/ 55% marks in their Indian academy setup, they also need to be matched to the right school, located 65% should be matched the right school located at 25 person also needs to be matched to the right school. 

Similarly, University is the only way they will be able to have their game and become better and better in terms of rankings, in terms of how they project themselves in terms of maybe even improving their fee structures is when most students at the end are successful. And I think the right way to do it is, how do I ensure that I say and I’m saying something that might hurt my business. But how do I say no to the person who’s not relevant to me other than giving an offer to everybody? And for the student also to ensure that rather than applying to 10 different schools, how do I apply to the three or four schools which are going to be relevant to me, which lead into some employment outcome, which leads into something that if I’m looking to sports, why should I go into agricultural in Canada, and so there has to be a lot of positive intent from both the sides, and every matchmaking essentially goes off well. 

We won’t have any of the problems that universities face about bad conversion percentages of the student really coming back and saying that, hey, you know what my experience wasn’t great. And maybe I blame XYZ and ABC for that bad experience. 

So I think the better we can do with matchmaking in terms of processes or products, I think that will just add up and ensure that we do collectively better as an industry.

Sushil Sukhwani, Founding Director & Owner, Edwise International

I just like to add to that. 

The unfortunate thing is with matchmaking, the decisions not taken by the student, we have peers, we have parents, and budget, and everything comes in. And unfortunately, the match sometimes is more about ROI than what happened earlier in the afternoon. Then he said about purpose, there’s a big difference between the two. But sometimes ROI wins over purpose.

Karunn Kandoi, ApplyBoard

Currently, I think there is a large opportunity for us to collaborate to compete, we are so stuck up in competition amongst each other that we seldom collaborate. And what I mean by that is, there could be a lot more information sharing across the board to share out like I said, non performing agents are those who are trying to trick the system and stuff like that. And at the same time, I think there is an opportunity for all of us to adapt and change a lot better. And that starts from schools, and then us as well. 

Suneet Singh Kochar, CEO, Fateh Education

Okay, in terms of cooperation, I have a very different view to it. 

I think I would look at cooperation a little further, because I think the journey we have to cover with the student is going to increase. And two, I think matchmaking as Sushil said, it’s much more complicated than just simply doing it in percentages. 

If I look at percentages, we get to the same 65 people, so universities get in, but if we could get access to understanding from university partners, where our students have gone in, to understand which university students have done, how have they done in those courses? What is the completion rate, how successful they are, what will help us understand is when we are directing students to understand, look, this is the area where you could be looking to do universities, you will succeed that currently, there is no metric available for us to judge that. 

Whatever metric is, is very generic. And it’s very, it’s not specific to our students. And as we go along, and as we talk about AI and you talk about a lot of these things, I think this data would be very good, very important for us to properly advise students on the courses they should be going in, based on how the further future success comes out.

Adrian Mutton

One of our colleagues, Hemant Das , who represents the University of Virginia’s Darden Business School cited an article that was in Bloomberg a couple of days ago about how students are complaining that the degrees are not equipping them for their employment journey. And companies are also complaining that graduates are not job ready. There’s a mismatch somewhere that needs to be sorted out, because it’s not in the interest of society for universities to be trying their hardest and to be failing to fulfil the students’ needs. And for corporations to be complaining at the other end. 

Many of our discussions were around that yesterday. We had Sanjeev Sanyal as a keynote yesterday, he’s Prime Minister’s economic advisory council member, an out of the box thinker quite controversial at times and quite controversial right here. And he essentially said that all of our university partners’ campuses were about to die. Those were his opening remarks. So you could have caught everyone’s attention quite quickly. 

But the premise of his conversation was how do we think differently to educate a much larger population across India and provide access and affordability to a much larger population? He wasn’t talking about the ones and twos and three percents of India that can afford to go overseas and have a three or four year campus experience? 

How are you seeing the interest for online education or hybrid education? We’ve also been talking about transnational education partnerships, two plus two, three plus one in China, the agents there will be selling one plus one three plus ones all day long, but it’s not something that you guys have been doing historically. 

Are you seeing a change in interest from students? Or is it still just traditional? Get me to a campus for three or four years or one or two years? Ug straight PG experience?

Banit Singh Sawhney, CEO and Founder, Imperial Group

I guess where a lot of these articulation agreements get stuck up is who gets the cheese right somewhere. There is a strong disconnect between the Indian education institutes and the represented universities abroad. 

Many times I’ve spoken to a lot of Vice Chancellors. They come like informally that if you want my students are not what I’m looking at. I’m actually looking at collaborations in terms of research, or private universities are setting up these kinds of incubation cells. 

It has to be a win win. So where I have tried on many occasions to matchmake between universities to make the matchmaking work, only if both are heavily collaborative in nature, which means there’s that give and take model. It is not.

I mean, there is obviously a commercial sense to it, but there has to be a strong given take in terms of research in terms of student experiences. And another inhibition, which I think is the visas. When a student is looking at it is because the visa is not in anybody’s hand either in my hand, or in the institution’s hands, so when this articulation agreements happen, and if, after one year, the visa is not going through, or there are issues is the inhibition, which parents have. 

So, for them to get into these kinds of courses, it’s, I mean, one is at the making of this course. And the second is that selling or appraising the student of this course makes sense? And the the challenges I think this is they are facing,

Adrian Mutton

I think there’s quite a lot of misunderstanding just within the sector about, particularly in India about what some of these joint programmes mean, the value of the degree, what’s the catch? So we’re all going on that journey. And for the consular officers, yeah, they’re getting their orders from higher offices back at HQ in London, or Washington, DC or Ottawa. And so some of this stuff is quite slow to filter down. So one of the earlier sessions today, we had a number of universities talking about TNE and the models that they’re looking at here in India, and everyone had a different view about what that model looked like. So I was sitting in the audience thinking, Well, if you’ve all got six different versions of what this recipe looks like, how on earth are the students going to recognise which model is kosher, which is the best? It’s tricky enough making a decision for higher ed, but let alone when all of these complexities come in?

Karunn Kandoi, ApplyBoard

Absolutely. So I can give you a personal anecdote here. 

My daughter was visiting, she’s in first year and during a conversation she said, the current education system seems like a scam to me, we’re paying for 15/17/18 years of education, and we don’t even know if the skills that we are learning are gonna be relevant. Am I gonna get the job at the end of the day? I don’t really care about the degree. So I think change is inevitable. And in that sense, we have to put the students first, what is it that the learner is looking for? Is the short term programme more job oriented? 

Those are the kinds of factors that I think we as an industry have to think through and start putting together.

Adrian Mutton


Akshay Chatruvedi – Founder LeverageEdu

Two very good points, because, incidentally, I was at a place where I was meeting an owner of a large university in India, and he was discussing exactly this, this is what he wants to do in order to vary, and these are very personal. Let me try and play Sanjeev given he’s not here today, and make up for his absence. 

But first one, most of the subjects discussed around this are absolute PR and gibberish, there is very little heel that meets the ground. And there’s very little execution around it. So it’s not been done in the right way. That’s one, second to realise that that market probably will exist for us with slightly fewer sounds, if at least like we have done multiple studies on the student base that we have. And a large part of the and we spoke about China as well, the typical student who was going out from China was somebody who wanted to essentially. And with due respect to our neighbour, China, they were students who essentially don’t mingle so much with each other on the campuses, they largely wanted to finish their studies developed behind the Chinese education system, they wanted to come back and do great things within the country, a typical student is going out from India, or somebody is actually looking to work there for a couple of years, during this part time jobs, you won’t really find a lot of Chinese students and part time jobs as compared to brown people.

So I think the markets are very different. And we are still a few years away from at least that’s my view. Pathways that are transnational, are becoming a big hit. And for that a lot of awareness in the industry will have to happen for a very consistent period of time without any parental gibberish, which is the path that we might have taken right on the last couple of years.

Adrian Mutton

Yeah, we discussed that with some of our institutional partners today. And you know, there’s always the benefit of first mover advantage. But if you trip over as a first mover, there’s also a big downside to it as well. So yeah, you’re right, finding the timing for this is very much what’s been discussed. Sushil.

Sushil Sukhwani, Founding Director & Owner, Edwise International

So, two plus two. I mean, I’ve always wondered why it’s not taken off in India, it is in many parts of the world. And one of the thoughts that I had is that it serves a price, I mean, a capacity issue and maybe a quality issue, but it doesn’t necessarily solve the price issue. And if you manage to do it at the right price, it could possibly work out. There’s something more important that students go abroad not only to study, they go for careers, immigration experience, many of them are leaving the house for the first time, they’re actually getting out because they need to get out. Okay, and, and they will do it. Another thing that you need to understand here is that an Indian student always will do a master’s, they do not stop at a bachelor’s. So if you’re spending that much at a bachelor’s, you have that much less left at the Masters. So the pricing has to be kept in mind that the student either gets enough employment to pay for the masters when they go abroad. Or somehow there’s money left over for the master’s programme.

Adrian Mutton

Gentlemen, we could talk for hours. 

You’re all doing great work, innovating, making students pathways to a better future and opportunity. And we appreciate your partnership Acumen. And I know that our university partners who work with you appreciate the work you’re doing. We all recognise we’ve still got so much more to do. That’s what gets us out of bed every day and keeps us persevering and we want to aim at being the best at what we do. And I’d like to thank you all for giving up your time. And I very much appreciate you joining the Acumen Global Gateway Summit. 

Thank you very much.

About the Acumen Global Gateway Summit: India

The Acumen Global Gateway Summit, held at the renowned JW Marriott hotel in New Delhi, marked a milestone in the Acumen@15 celebrations. This exclusive invite-only event brought together the Acumen Global Team, distinguished guests, government officials, and experts. Client partners convened to discuss international higher education, exchange innovative ideas, and shape a vision for expanding access to higher education. The summit fostered collaboration, inspiration, and knowledge dissemination among higher education professionals. With its unique setting and thoughtful discussions, the event offered an exceptional platform for networking and setting the course for a future of inclusive and transformative higher education.

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