Education letter: There's no `scandal' here

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The Independent Online
I am pleased to have stimulated debate in your columns on the topic of the entry qualifications of students who pay the overseas rate of tuition fee. The academic parts of those qualifications are varied and complex but, as far as English language is concerned, there is a very simple way to establish whether or not universities are being honest in the admission of such students.

The British Council advises that a score of 7.0 in the International English Language Testing Service (IELTS) examination is "probably acceptable" for admission to "linguistically demanding academic courses, such as medicine, law, linguistics, journalism, library studies".

For "linguistically less demanding academic courses such as mathematics, technology and computer-based work", it suggests a minimum score of 6.5.

I do not know anyone who would argue that these scores are unreasonably high. Indeed, I would suggest that for courses such as English literature or drama, it would be kinder to the students to require a score of 7.5 or 8.0.

There are other tests, such as the Princeton Test of English as a Foreign Language where a score of 620 (or the equivalent in the computer based version) might be considered equal to 7.0 in IELTS.

The universities should easily be able to disprove my allegations that they are exploiting students for financial reasons, by publishing the scores achieved by their intakes to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the beginning of this academic year.

I suggest that there could only be one reason for a refusal to make this information available.


former head of schools and international liaison, Royal Holloway, University of London,