British Council recently announced that it would sell its IELTS business in India to IDP for £130m on a debt free and cash free basis, meaning IDP will be sole distributor of IELTS testing in India from July 25.
AAERI members suggested the announcement would potentially be anti-competitive, as IDP also operates as an agent, and it will seek to promote alternative language testing services.
Since it was revealed at the beginning of July, AAERI has established the MoU to make sure that students have access to other tests. In a letter to members, AAERI president Ravi Lochan Singh said the organisation is also working on an MoU with Pearson’s PTE.
The organisation is also reaching out to universities and visa offices to recommend that in communications IELTS should not appear as a preferred test over other options, such as TOEFL.
“AAERI members in India have now signed an MoU with OneStep Global, a market entry firm representing the TOEFL program in India,” Siddharth Iyer, business consultant, designate country manager for ETS TOEFL, told The PIE News.
AAERI members will sign up for the ETS TOEFL® Market Ambassador Program to access free training with certification for counsellors and trainers on the test.
Additionally, they will access free test prep collateral, agent network incentives for registrations, executive passes to attend the TOEFL® Essentials™ India launch event and “exclusive benefits” they can pass on to students, including a $10 discount on the TOEFL iBT® test, he explained.
“We look forward to this collaboration and continuing to assist students during this important part of their journey to study abroad”
“Australia is a key study destination for Indian students, where the TOEFL iBT® test is accepted by 100% of universities and for all migration visas, so we look forward to this collaboration and continuing to assist students during this important part of their journey to study abroad,” Iyer added.
The main concerns around the acquisition centred around whether IDP would use IELTS test taking data for its student recruitment activities.
“The common fear [among agents] is that students who register for the IELTS at IDP will be approached by the counsellors at IDP for admission,” Sushil Sukhwani, founding director and owner of Edwise, recently told The PIE.
“This is OK if the student has permitted sharing of his/her personal information for services other than for the exam. However, agents would be extremely uncomfortable with this as there is a possibility that they would lose the students to IDP.”
In response, IDP said that it has strictly enforced firewalls in place between student placement and IELTS data. Despite this, AAERI is still pushing to make sure other testing options available.
“University brochures and websites must list all acceptable tests and not refer to them as ‘equivalent to IELTS requirements’. We would want the students to have the option to consider all tests that are deemed equal,” Lochan Singh said.
Lochan Singh told The PIE that he has engaged with Australia’s department of Home Affairs to understand their requirements pertaining to any preferred English Test.
“At this time, the department accepts five approved English language tests suitable for migration purposes,” he said.
While the department has been approached by approved testing providers to consider online remote testing, the mode of testing is still not accepted for migration purposes, Lochan Singh continued.
“For student enrolment purposes, it is up to individual education providers as to what method of English testing they use.
“Thus, the universities following the streamlined visa process do have a right to determine what meets their requirement for English proficiency.
“Universities around the world have been open to accepting alternatives and we have seen new tests being added from time to time and becoming accepted in some countries,” he added.
“We have seen new tests being added from time to time and becoming accepted in some countries”
AAERI recently wrote to IDP over their concerns and IDP made a number of clarifications.
While the company will be the sole distributor of the IELTS, the master brand will continue to be used by test centres as IELTS. The secondary brand at all test centres will be IDP. British Council continues to be a co-owner of IELTS.
British Council will play a major role through IELTS coaching and preparation services, and IDP will not offer formal IELTS coaching services. Additionally, IDP will continue to demarcate student placement and IELTS customer data as in the past.
IELTS and student placement databases are strict multi-layered and multi-person security protocols, meaning IDP student counsellors would be restricted from accessing data even if they wanted to. Independent, duly-demarcated systems mean there is no risk of cross-selling.
IDP has also promised to safeguard student referrals from other AAERI members and says these students will never be approached for the student recruitment business. Student placement services will not be promoted at computer-delivered IELTS centres.
Candidates don’t need to visit an IDP student placement centre for computer-delivered IELTS and these are not located alongside IDP’s student placement offices.
IDP said that it is a proud member of AAERI and values the role of other AAERI members and will work alongside AAERI and AAERI members to promote the industry.