An interview with Study Group partner AH&Z Associates

20 December 2021
Posted by Study Group

An interview with Study Group partner AH&Z Associates

As part of Study Group’s new blog Spotlight Series, we are delighted to share an interview with Nicholas Cuthbert, a non-Executive Director and Board Member of AH&Z Associates. AH&Z Associates is a Study Group Agent Premier Club Gold winner. Nicholas works closely with the AH&Z Associates senior leadership team to devise the business strategy for the company.

Q1. How do you feel about winning an Agent Premier Club award?

We work extremely hard to provide international students with professional guidance and operate with a high level of integrity and transparency to support them to access global higher education opportunities. The award is a fantastic validation for AH&Z Associates that we are doing the right thing and also reflects our strong relationship with Study Group.

Q2. Could you share what the past year has been like in terms of international student recruitment - highlighting challenges and how you managed to turn things around?  

It was a very challenging year but also a rewarding year for AH&Z Associates. The pandemic has enabled many international student recruitment agencies to come together and innovate and improve their customer services for students and families with a hybrid approach to online and offline support. So, I think it has really accelerated change in the industry and our business has benefited from focusing on these different channels and providing good customer service.

The challenge was the worldwide lockdown as previously, a traditional agency is based on office-based support and face-to-face student and parent counselling. Building a connection of trust between an international student applicant and their families and working in partnership with universities to really look at improving their profile is crucial. As a result, the pivot happened to really work out how we could replicate the fantastic service we give in person, online.

We tried and tested many options and digital recruitment was the best approach. The ability to have online meetings and counselling appointments actually helped broaden our reach and once everybody felt comfortable and trusting of the service in that way, it has become an integral part of the business.

Q3. What is your view on the future of education?

There is definitely a place for both a face-to-face more traditional and digital approach. The current generation of students are very comfortable online, from purchasing items to trusting brands online. Then there is the parental generation who prefer in-person interaction and that also differs from market to market.

As a global business you have to be able to adapt to market needs, which is something AH&Z has been able to do effectively. We have been in the market since 2008 with a strong UK team and a strong UK office presence. When you now apply the digital channel and reach out to the world, it is a different offering from when you are talking to people who are based in the UK. You're talking to people from a variety of different cultural backgrounds and contexts, with a broad spectrum of needs.

The influence of EdTech has changed how education is delivered and how we communicate education programmes around the world. There is still a high demand for in-person education, such as face to face teaching and for the study aboard experience and all the values that brings of moving to and experiencing a different culture.

So, in my view, the basics haven’t changed, but the delivery is changing and of course integration and investment with synchronized online teaching is coming and will improve as we move forward.

Although they have appreciated the flexibility of studying digitally during the pandemic, to not delay starting their pathway programme, ultimately, they would prefer an on-campus student experience with a mix of face-to-face and digital course delivery.

Q4. What measures do you go to match a student with a Higher Education institute to ensure the student’s success?

At AH&Z Associates, we exclusively specialise in UK university focused international student recruitment services. We work hard to understand students’ needs, budgets and academic results and from there match them to the programme and higher education institution that is best suited to them.

We want our students to succeed and to place them in universities where they can achieve their goals and dreams. We see ourselves very much as an extension of those university teams, so the partnerships that we have really are an outsourcing capability where we act on their behalf and we take that very, very seriously. So, a lot of training goes into understanding their academic portfolios and then connecting the applicants to close to the universities themselves to make sure that they built that trust from the outset.

Q5. What is your view of the partnership with Study Group?

Study Group are a very important partner. They have excellent university partnerships and they themselves help bridge the gap for many students to enter those universities and access the UK higher education system. It's a solution that many students need in our market and Study Group makes that happen.

As Manoj Shetty, Chief Revenue Officer at Study Group comments:

“We really value our partnership with AH&Z Associates.

“They work tirelessly as an organisation to truly understand their students’ needs and place them at universities that will help them achieve their long-term academic and career goals.

“The support they provide for the students and parents they work with is absolutely outstanding and we are proud to work with such an exceptional international student recruitment agency.”

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