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UK visa changes won't affect most students

By Zhao Xinying in Beijing and Zhang Chunyan in London | China Daily | Updated: 2014-05-22 07:00

Immigration no longer accepting scores from US testing service

The United Kingdom's latest move to stop accepting Test of English as a Foreign Language and Test of English for International Communication results in visa applications may not have a significant impact on Chinese students who plan to study there, overseas study consultants said.

Terence Murray, operating manager of the Overseas Students Service Centre, a consultancy in the UK for foreign students, said, "Not many Chinese students use ETS (the Educational Testing Service) tests for their applications to the Home Office in the UK; I am not sure about the number, but it is a small number."


UK visa changes won't affect most students

Students inquire about studying in the United Kingdom at an education fair in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, in March. The UK's latest move to stop accepting visa applications that include test results from the US-based Educational Testing Service is not likely to have a major impact on Chinese students, experts said. Lang Congliu / For China Daily

The ETS is the United States-based nonprofit educational testing and assessment service that administers the TOEFL and TOEIC English-language proficiency tests worldwide.

Liu Fengjie, director of consultants at the UK department of Chivast Education International, an overseas study consultancy in Beijing, said, "Students applying for UK universities with TOEFL results are not the mainstream."

She gave possible reasons for students using TOEFL scores: applying for universities both in the UK and the US, and being better at TOEFL than the International English Language Testing System, an English proficiency test jointly managed by groups including Cambridge English Language Assessment and the British Council.

Liu estimated that students using TOEFL scores made up 9 to 10 percent of the 62,000 Chinese students who applied to UK schools last year. "It's not a big group," she said.

Murray and Liu's remarks were made in response to the concerns of Chinese students who plan to study in the UK, after the UK government's Home Office announced in early April that it would not extend its contract with ETS.

That means the UK Visas and Immigration division will stop accepting visa applications with TOEFL scores.

He Jining, an undergraduate student studying for a double major in English and international politics at Shandong University in Jinan, the capital of Shandong province, scored 108 out of 120 on the TOEFL exam she took last August and started applying for graduate schools at UK universities.

Having received admissions offers from several good universities in the UK, including the London School of Economics and Political Science, the University College London, the University of Warwick and Durham University, she said she is concerned by the news.

She has been informed that her TOEFL results can still be used for her visa application, but she is taking IELTS also, "to be on the safe side".

"Everything was going quite well before the incident and my study in the UK is scheduled to start in September. But now I have to prepare for IELTS, a test I am not familiar with, within such a short time," the 24-year-old said.

She registered for an IELTS test in July, as "there is no seat for IELTS in Jinan in June".

"I have to take the test as soon as possible, so that I can save more time for my visa application," she said.

Liu, the Chinese consultant, said she and her colleagues suggested in February that their student clients register for IELTS or even a PTE exam, an English proficiency test provided by Pearson, an educational group in the UK, after a fraud case in a TOEIC exam was disclosed by a BBC program.

"Although at that time the consequences hadn't spread to other countries outside the UK, we still felt it was necessary to 'save for a rainy day', " she said, adding that most of their clients start their study in the UK in autumn.

There are now 130,000 Chinese students studying in the UK, according to the Chinese embassy in Britain. International students contribute 10 billion pounds ($16.8 billion) a year to the UK economy, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills of the UK said.

Whether the latest move to stop accepting ETS results will influence Chinese students' willingness to study in the UK remains unknown.

Wang Weijia, a postgraduate student of Shanghai International Studies University who is considering applying for doctoral programs at universities in both the UK and the US with her TOEFL scores, said she decided to give up going to the UK upon hearing the news.

"For me, universities in the US are the first choice while those in the UK are an option, as universities in the US offer more scholarships than those in the UK," she said. "Now I have no option and should focus on my applications for US universities."

However, Liu believes that for students who see UK universities as their first or only choice, the fact TOEFL can no longer be used in UK visa applications will not make a difference.

"These students will take IELTS or the PTE rather than TOEFL from the very beginning," she said.

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