We have reversed a decision made three months ago regarding acceptance of TOEFL as a means of demonstrating English proficiency. We are essentially accepting TOEFL again.
This U-turn is the result of the confusion that sudden changes to the visa regime can create. Here is the sequence of events. Earlier this year, a TV programme exposed the procedural abuses that happened in a TOEIC (another language test) testing centre in the UK. The UK Government rightly investigated the incident and asked ETS, the test-provider, to suspend all TOEIC and TOEFL tests in the UK pending the results of the investigation. When the investigation was completed in April, ETS decided not to renew its licence with the UK Border Force and that meant that TOEFL tests were no longer available in the UK, even though the investigation had not revealed any breakdown in security processes for TOEFL tests. In the wake of that decision, it wasn’t entirely clear what the impact was on non-EU student visas as many Universities used TOEFL as a means of language assessment.
While we run a separate admissions process from the University, we try to make sure that our standards are aligned to a great degree. So the business school adopted the University’s guidance that TOEFL would continue to be accepted for the majority of the students who were applying for the September 2014 class. There was a small group who had taken TOEFL and were required to undergo a separate language assessment but the impact was small. For admissions after September 2014, the University decided that TOEFL would not be accepted and we followed suit.
With the benefit of some time to assess the issue of language assessment, the University has decided to accept TOEFL again so long as candidates are interviewed as part of the admissions process. This is not an issue for the business school as all our students are interviewed by members of faculty. Essentially, we are back in the situation pre-February 2014.
This is good news because many of our students are non-EU students who did not study in one of the small group of countries that have an exemption from the UK Visas and Immigration. At the same time, I am reassured that the TOEFL test process is still robust as it was not implicated in the UK government investigation. While the confusing U-turn would not have helped our efforts in terms of marketing the Cambridge MBA, I am hopeful that the relative early timing of this change in the admissions cycle means that we have time to get the message out to our candidate pool.
On a last note, I was reflecting whether we should have just ignored the furore about ETS and continued to accept TOEFL. Many of our students sit for TOEFL and it was not a painless decision to take. For that matter, some UK schools took this stand and never even made any changes to their website regarding TOEFL throughout this entire saga. But I think we did the right thing. We have to be upfront with our candidate pool about changes to the visa regime. We cannot put students in a position where they could be at an advanced stage of moving to the UK only to find that their visas were in jeopardy.