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Getting to know The Beijing Overseas Study Service Association and China Alliance (BOSSA - COSSA)

Published Bernice on Monday, April 6, 2020

Working with education agents in China

In today's Q&A session we are going to focus on the Beijing Overseas Study Service Association and China Alliance, which is also known as BOSSA - COSSA which we are proudly partnered with. In this interview you can learn more about this organisation and about the way in which they select agents to form part of it.

How did the association begin?

BOSSA initially started in 2004 alongside Beijing governmental authorities as an exclusive association for Beijing-based agencies recognized by the Ministry of Education (MoE). COSSA started in 2012 for agencies applying for MoE recognition, outside of Beijing. 16 years later, BOSSA & COSSA are nationally recognized nonprofit associations deemed as a standard of excellence for the industry. 

Has the study abroad industry changed, any impacts felt?

The industry's landscape changed dramatically since BOSSA's inception in the 2000s when a handful of big agencies dominated the market.

Now there are thousands of agents, varying in all sizes, in all major cities. The most remarkable change occurred in 2017, the MoE abolished the governmental recognition clause. Agent membership increased over threefold from approximately 110 to 300 in the past several years, expanding in city and provincial inclusion. BOSSA & COSSA agency members account for a significant amount, two-thirds, of all outbound Chinese student exchanges worldwide.

What training do your member agents undergo? Why is this important?

Stressing the importance on staying updated on policies affecting China's study abroad industry, we host small seminars with members agents throughout the year, and an annual members' gathering since 2004. BOSSA also hosts or participates in policy briefings at embassies in Beijing, particularly about visa issues and competitive advantages of the hosting country.

The CEAC agent training program, in conjunction with ICEF and the Chinese Ministry of Human Resources, launched in 2014. The CEAC China Education Agent Course has graduated over 1,000 certified individual counselors. BOSSA’s purpose is to train, guide, and evaluate education agencies according to both governmental policies and internationalized industry standards. 

Who are your member agents?

Currently BOSSA and its subsidiary association COSSA comprise almost 300 agency members across all provinces of China. Member demographics range from the country's largest conglomerates & publicly traded companies, to nationwide franchises, small-medium sized enterprises (SME's), upstart agencies and individual counselors. Beijing remains the epicenter of the industry with nearly all the flagships headquartered here and running branch offices throughout 2nd and 3rd tier cities. Shanghai and Guangzhou-based large agencies also follow this model.  It's not uncommon for SME's and upstart agency founders to be former executives or staff at top companies. Many overseas returnees are employed at education agencies. 

How does BOSSA help ensure agents and educators abroad form strong links?

By providing prolific means of introductions and meetings between educators and our agencies, as a credible intermediary, through live events and online webinars. Chinese agencies have entrusted BOSSA as the international education service industry association since 2004 and it reflects in our drawing power for both live events and webinars. 

We organize bi-annual BOSSA Agent Expos (known as The Beijing International Education Exhibition) in Beijing every Spring & Autumn.

Each Agent Expo brings over 120 Chinese education agency managers, counselors, and owners. It is the largest exhibition of its kind in China. More information at Overseas we've hosted Chinese agent FAM Trips & Roadshows in UAE (Dubai), Ireland, UK, Australia, Malaysia, and in the US. 

Ongoing business partner relation building and transactions between universities and agents is ultimately decided by them. We can help expedite communication between the two parties as an intermediator, but don't influence actions on either side. 

In what other ways does BOSSA support education agents in China?

Our association is the voice of the industry and BOSSA's leadership communicates the trends and policies shaping it. Thus, providing a platform for internal and external information exchange has always been a crucial function of ours. 

Within China; BOSSA hosted the first ever inter-association conference last September. A summit discussing factors shaping the industry, smaller associations co-hosted alongside BOSSA, and several hundred Chinese Intl-Ed professionals attended from all over the country. This occasion was not only the first national forum to bring industry leaders and executives together the north, central, and south's associations, but the largest of its kind in industry history. 

Externally, online; BOSSA virtually connects educators abroad with member agents via webinars. Webinars help introduce and train agents in China without having to physically be in country. A typical webinar broadcast is seen by several dozen individual agents in multiple cities or provinces. Webinars are a proven cost-effective channel for those overseas, and for agent members seeking specific kinds of programs abroad.

Still, we encourage all educators to come to China or meet their agents in person.

How else can universities, schools, programs or student service providers work with BOSSA?

Quality educators and businesses can utilize services of our International Department, which has helped hundreds of institutions matchmake with our agent members. From newcomers looking to enter China for the first time, to educators who had past success in recruitment but now need to re-establish relationships with agents, or for mature organizations seeking to expand their reach in the Chinese study abroad market.

If you are interested in working with BOSSA-COSSA, feel free to drop us a line and we'll be happy to put you in touch.

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