We have been contacted by Michael Suss, an EdD student at La Trobe University in Melbourne, who expresses his concern about the role IELTS is playing in his country as an immigration filter. He writes, for example,
"IELTS is being used well outside its original intent as a means of determining whether applicants for migration, professional organisations and occupations have a minimum level of English language proficiency. Despite the Disclaimer by the promoters of the IELTS system that it must not be used by itself only as a determinant of a person’s English language proficiency, it is being universally ignored, and incorrectly applied."
To read his paper in full, click on the link below.
Last week I had the pleasure of making a visit to Scotland's capital city, and was lucky enough to catch a bright November day. The video, made for a language school in central Edinburgh, lasts just one minute and twenty seconds.
Today Prince Andrew is on the front pages for taking a robust view of the defence chiefs. Yesterday I was privileged to attend a conference at Wellington College, which the Prince also attended and addressed as guest of honour, and where he touched on matters close to the heart of this blog.
Firstly, visas. The Prince has clearly been well, and repeatedly, briefed on the subject of the problems faced by international education institutions in the UK resulting from the machinations of the UK Border Agency, and of the severe consequences this is having for such institutions, and indeed, given the economic importance of international education, for the health of the nation generally. The positive thing here is that in Prince Andrew we have a champion who is not only born to a position of influence but is also officially the UK’s special representative for international trade and industry. While the boarding schools, language schools, colleges and universities will all continue to fight their corners, we are fortunate to have an influential figurehead with no personal axe to grind who can see clearly what the benighted inhabitants of Whitehall apparently cannot. Delegates to the conference at Wellington were urged by more than one speaker to write to their MPs to keep the flow of international students coming to the UK, and this enjoinder was specifically taken up by the Prince.
Secondly, the British Council. Given the roles of HM The Queen as Patron and HRH Prince Charles as Vice Patron of the organisation, the robust criticism by HRH Prince Andrew took me, at least, by surprise. But the Prince is clearly well aware of the prejudicial effect of the organisation on bona fide British companies, and while he could see that the British Council was obliged to indulge in commerce in order to make money that would otherwise not be available from the public purse, the Prince also made plain his view that any perceived shortfall did not justify the use of public money to support commercial competition with independent enterprise.
He also said that he had raised such matters with the organisation’s Chief Executive, Martin Davidson, whom he described in one word as “evasive”. I would only add that from my point of view such a description is polite understatement. I wrote to Davidson over a period of years, and the points in my letters (kindly referred to as “notes” by Mr Davidson) were either unanswered or evaded. When Davidson was obliged to call an investigation into my complaints, I agreed to terms of reference including the following:
Both the British Council and Mr Blackie undertake to:
· Allow the investigator full access to all documents, emails and third party opinions agreed to be relevant by the Investigator. · Facilitate contact with any person who the Investigator wishes to interview as part of his enquiry. · Allow the Investigator to determine whether and how to admit interviews on a non-attributable basis. · Agree to be bound by the conclusions of the Investigator.
What happened? I put forward a file of evidence, reports, emails, letters and other documents, and I was interviewed twice for an aggregate period of four hours. On the British Council side no documents were produced, no emails, no third party opinions, no contact was made with the management parties responsible. And nobody, nobody at all, was interviewed. And the “investigator’s” report contained no evidence either, not even mine. The conclusion of the investigator was that the British Council had done no wrong, and that I should be given £10,000. A fix? Of course it was. A classic piece of British Council Davidson organised evasion. Having evaded his way to the top of the British Council, and having evaded commentary on reported claims for hotel expenses at his place of work, he will no doubt soon, like his predecessor, evade his way to a knighthood and a comfortable index-linked, taxpayer-funded, retirement pension. Perhaps he will have a share of that £10,000 that I refused.
Such is the sad reality of how taxpayers’ money really is used. There are many, at home and abroad, who will hope that HRH Prince Andrew continues to shine a light on this dreadful organisation so that one day, rather than just fiddling at the edges, something is actually done about it.