Huge congratulations for everybody who achieved their language goals in what’s been a particularly tough year for test takers!
There was lots of news in the world of IELTS in 2020. So in case you missed any, here’s what happened.
IELTS & OET News
We kicked off the year with news that IELTS was reappointed as the biggest supplier of Secure English Language Tests (SELTS) in Britain, which UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) uses to verify visa applicants’ proficiency.
Our February edition explained how the Listening component of the IELTS test has changed. In part 1, there’s no longer an example, you have slightly less time to prepare, and the conversation may be slightly longer. Page number references have also been removed.
In March, IELTS tests were cancelled in several countries – including, most notably, in China – with the British Council and IDP centres, which administer the test, beginning to close as Covid-19 took hold around the world.
By April, almost all IELTS test centres had closed, a major headache for those who were planning an imminent move to an English speaking country.
Covid-19 continued to dominate headlines in May – but with some positive news for IELTS test takers, as centres around the world began reopening with stringent new safety procedures in place.
In June, the first wave of Covid-19 was largely over. IELTS test centres around the world began reopening; our students were assessed in countries as far apart as the Hong Kong, Germany and the UK.
More than 280 universities around the world were accepting the online IELTS Indicator test by July, offering hope for students looking to study in an English speaking country.
With more test centres reopening in August, IELTS reduced the number of countries in which its Indicator test, taken virtually, from 65 to 48.
OET test takers were able to do so on a computer for the first time in September, with 10,000 candidates initially invited to do so.
IELTS introduced two new Zoom call formats for the Speaking test in October: at home using the Indicator test, or with an examiner (via video link) in a test centre.
In November, IELTS launched its ‘time to get the world talking’ social media campaign as test centres reopened in more than 100 countries – with health and safety measures in place of course.
International Employment Opportunities
2020 began with some major news for those looking to move to the UK: the British government announced its new points-based immigration scheme.
In February, amid a continuing shortage of healthcare professionals in the UK, the British government announced a change to immigration rules to make it easier for medical professionals to live in the UK: the minimum salary threshold was reduced by more than £4,000.
March saw retired healthcare professionals brought back to service in the UK, as an ongoing skills shortage was exacerbated by the pandemic.
TOEFL began offering an iBT Special Home Edition test in April, easing worries for some, who were able to prove their English proficiency virtually.
The UK’s General Medical Council, which certifies healthcare professionals, began accepting virtual OET tests for the first time in May.
In June, the UK automatically extended all visas and skill tests for medical professionals, expiring before October 1st, by a year.
The UK government published the first details of its new points-based immigration system in July, creating new opportunities for skilled migrant workers.
The requirements for a UK Skilled Worker Visa were eased in August, with applicants now requiring high school, not degree level, education and a lower minimum salary of £25,600.
September brought news of a dramatic increase in the number of overseas job seekers looking for work in the UK – although the country remained short of the healthcare professionals the NHS needs.
In October, there was news that the highest numbers of prospective skilled migrants to the UK now come from non EU countries: 11.8% from India and 7.8% from the US.
And in November, the biggest news in the UK was about Brexit: with a ‘no deal’ scenario on the cards, the outcome of the negotiations was far from certain – but whatever happens, there’ll be new opportunities for English speaking migrants from outside the EU.
In January, Chinese students said the US had become less attractive for them as a destination to study. Many are looking instead to other English speaking countries.
By February, Chinese students were feeling the impact of covid-19; IELTS tests were cancelled and Australia closed its borders to more than 100,000 Chinese students.
Chinese students who needed proof of their language skills to study in Australia found themselves unable to provide it in March, with IELTS centres closed.
China postponed its national university entrance exam in April, signalling further headaches for those looking to take an IELTS test before July.
In May, IELTS launched an entirely digital version of its test, available online to support university applications.
June brought news that, unlike other English speaking countries, the UK remained an attractive destination for students with just a quarter of those surveyed in India changing their plans due to Covid-19.
July saw the UK government launch its new graduate visa system, which will allow an unlimited number of students to enter the UK and to remain to work for two years after graduation.
In August, a UK think tank proposed a lower cap on student numbers from China, arguing that institutions had become too economically dependent on the country.
There was some good news for international university applicants in September: studies showed that the number of students travelling to study in countries like Australia, the UK and US had declined significantly, making places less competitive and easier to obtain.
In October, Education Insight, a research consultancy, launched its Global Engagement Index, a league table showing the success of each UK university’s international student population.
Covid-19 continued to disrupt international study in November, with Australia postponing the easing of its border restrictions – but New Zealand, on the other hand, began admitting a small number of students from overseas.
And that’s a wrap!
With vaccines being rolled out around the world and test centres open, 2021 looks to be full of opportunity for English speaking migrants.