That starts with rebuilding the recruitment channel for the college. The past practises of agency-based recruitment will not do. In the past, colleges passed down the financial risks to the agents, but agents passed up the compliance risks. In these lean and difficult times, neither the students nor the colleges can afford that model anymore. We started with a review of all our agents and their performance, not just in terms of business but also compliance, looking at students from which agents have been delinquent and accordingly rating the agencies. After this, we terminated all the existing agency contracts and issued new contracts to a select few: The new contracts upped the rewards for recruitment but made it dependent on student performance and retention. Most agents didn't like it: However, we have already accepted that most of our recruitment will not come through agencies, but instead through progression arrangements and partnerships, and hence our stance on the new agency arrangements were non-negotiable.
Since then, we have put in work in building the channels of progression and partnerships, rather than passive recruitment. This is different from students walking through the doors wanting to come to UK. The model we are developing will require the students to study a large part of the programme in their home country, either through one of our international outlets, as we are setting up in Turkey, India and Poland, or in a partner college, as we are doing in some parts of India, Thailand and Philippines.
This indeed means I go back to my old life - that of travelling to different parts of the world building partnerships - but I am enjoying being part of this transition. Over the last eighteen month, my colleagues and me have transformed what was a largely unreformed college - British Private sector HE has been a fragmented, unorganised affair right up to now - into a leaner, strategically aligned business entity with bigger ambitions. The business remains small in size, having shrunk somewhat in the last six months or so, but this was intentional rather than unwarranted. The step change required us to close the gates and retool the entire offering, which we have now done. There are battles to fight still, and this journey was never easy: However, I feel confident that when, many years hence, I would look back at this phase of my life, I shall feel that I have achieved something of significance, learnt a great deal and experimented with models which will now become the norm rather than exception in a refashioned industry.