UK-approved Ielts test centre list unveiled

02 April, 2015

On the eve of the UK’s new Secure English Language Test (SELT) system coming into effect, Ielts is seeking to assure study travel agents that demand can be met following the release of the UK-approved test centre list by the Home Office.

Details of the Ielts SELT Consortium test centres outside the UK have been released

Under the new system, commencing on April 6, only test certificates issued by Home Office-approved Ielts centres outside the UK will be accepted for visa applications requiring proof of English skills. Scores from Ielts and Trinity College London centres inside the UK will be accepted.

The Ielts SELT Consortium – which comprises the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment – is operating 206 UK-approved test centres in 137 countries outside of the UK, according to a list recently published on the Home Office website.

There are 109 permanent centres across 52 countries, while the remainder are “pop-up” test centres.

Students that need to submit a test certificate for their Tier 4 student visa application – which includes those applying for pathway/foundation courses and non-degree tertiary programmes – will need to attend a UK-approved test centre.

Higher education institutions (HEIs) are still permitted to verify language skills for degree-level courses and above by themselves. A spokesperson for Ielts said, “It’s important to note that UK Visas and Immigration have confirmed that the Tier 4 rules have not changed, so those who are applying for a Tier 4 student visa to a Highly Trusted Sponsor to study for an undergraduate or postgraduate degree can apply with an Ielts result from any of the 1,000+ Ielts test locations worldwide, unless their chosen institution has additional requirements.”  HEIs may also use other English tests for this purpose.

The new SELT system restricts the number of test centre options available in several key markets. Thailand, for example, has only one UK-approved centre, while Brazil and Saudi Arabia have three each and Nigeria has two.

Speaking about capacity, Dr. Derar Bal’awi Regional Director - Research, Middle East & North Africa at IGEC agency in Saudi Arabia, said, “We are absolutely concerned about that.”

Among IGEC’s clientele, students from the Levant region and Iran generally apply directly to postgraduate programmes, and would therefore be able to use any Ielts test centre, Dr Bal’awi said. “However, students from the Gulf, especially those sponsored by governments, are split in half between those getting accepted directly and those requiring pathway/foundation programmes.”

He also expressed concern that the new system could possibly affect the attractiveness of the UK as a study destination, given the presence of other internationally recognised tests in the country and their acceptance in other study destinations.    

Addressing industry concerns about capacity, the Ielts Spokesperson said, “As specific administrative requirements are needed to run Ielts sessions for UK visa purposes, a smaller number of locations than those currently operating (non-SELT) Ielts tests will be able to provide Ielts tests for UK visa applications.

The test centre network for these purposes has been planned to meet anticipated customer demand both in the UK and globally. We are working closely with UK Visas and Immigration to monitor the transition process and capacity closely, and on an ongoing basis, to ensure that customer demand is met.”

The UK Home Office refused to outline the criteria that test centres need to meet in order to be UK approved.

Within the UK, 10 Ielts test centres and 10 Trinity College London test centres are approved for UK visa applications under the new system. Tests formerly accepted under previous rules and taken before April 6 will be accepted in applications until November 5.

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