TOEFL, admissions, visas.

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.

Look before you leap — the FT’s headline not mine

I recently had the pleasure of participating in an interview with the FT Business Education editor Della Bradshaw about MBAs applying to programmes outside their home country. I don’t do this often and I find it terribly uncomfortable watching myself on video. I keep asking myself why didn’t someone tell me that my glasses lookContinue Reading

When rankings get mixed with commercial concerns

I’ve recently sent in the inputs needed for the Business Week MBA survey and although the results won’t be published for several months, there has already been some controversy. I won’t go into all the details but there were several questions in the student survey that some felt were inappropriate and offensive. There were questionsContinue Reading

Women are not the problem.

Last week, the Women in Business Special Interest Group (SIG) organised a talk by Smaranda Gosa-Mensing, Professional Development Manager and Head of Learning UK at McKinsey. She talked about McKinsey’s Centered Leadership model and how it can apply to individuals and organisations. You can hear a podcast that two of our MBAs did with Smaranda,Continue Reading

What’s next after advertising and content

[slideshare id=31932443&doc=frackingthesocialweb-march2014-140305040829-phpapp02] I have been away for the past month in a combination of work-related and holiday travels. I personally find this time out of the office useful to take stock of what we have been doing and what changes in direction we might have to take. It was in one of the many artisanal cafes thatContinue Reading

Dominant paradigms in MBA programmes

Last week, I listened to the BBC Radio 4 programme the Bottom Line where the host discusses topical business issues with some guests. I have never tuned into this programme before and the only reason I did on this occasion was because our Head of PR told me that the topic would be business schools.Continue Reading

What I didn’t have to do this year

The Financial Times published its annual MBA rankings two weeks ago and the Cambridge MBA held steady at 16th position. While I did my usual analysis of the results for our internal audiences, one thing that struck me was how low-key the reaction to the rankings was compared to previous years. Yes, it helped thatContinue Reading

Musings on Japan

I have turned this post over to James Barker (@JamesAdmissions on twitter) who writes about his trip to Japan last year when he met prospective CJBS candidates. “In my role as an admissions officer for the Cambridge MBA programme, I am fortunate to be able to travel to some of the world’s most fascinating cities. Continue Reading

A change of name — a shift in twitter strategy

Followers of our twitter account @CambridgeMBA would have noticed a subtle but significant change that occurred about three weeks ago. I used to tweet under the @CambridgeMBA handle but I now tweet under the handle @conradchua16. The marketing team now tweets using the @CambridgeMBA handle. When we first started on the social media journey someContinue Reading

BW looking at ways to revamp and re-energise rankings?

A recent article disclosed the departures of the two top editors of Bloomberg Business Week’s business education team. I have no way of verifying whether this news is accurate and, unlike the author of the article, I am in position nor care to speculate.   However, I did respond to one person who asked inContinue Reading