Prospective International Students to Have More Options of Language-Testing Providers

Prospective International Students to Have More Options of Language-Testing Providers

Dutch HEIs Implementing New Accreditation Process for Organisations

Prospective international students who intend to pursue educational programmes in the Netherlands will soon have more options of testing providers in order to comply with English-language requirements. On 1 January 2024, the National Commission for the Code of Conduct launched a new accreditation process aimed at selecting organisations that offer these services. 

Currently, only IELTS, TOEFL and Cambridge Advanced Certificate are listed in the Code of Conduct for International Students in Dutch Higher Education as recognised providers. These organisations were selected in 2006 by the three umbrella associations that are part of the National Commission, representing the segments of research universities (Universiteiten van Nederland), universities of applied sciences (Vereniging Hogescholen) and private education institutions (NRTO). 

Those providers already recognised will have to go through an accreditation process, but it will be a shorter procedure than the one applied to newcomers. To be admitted to the list of providers in September, at the start of a new academic year, the application for admission must be made between 1 October and 1 April of the preceding year. Therefore, organisations that would like to get accredited for the 2025 academic year have until 1 April 2024 to apply. 

The process will be conducted preferably by Dutch strategic consultant company Hobéon, but language-testing providers are allowed to choose other validating authorities, provided they are approved by the steering committee that is in charge of the procedure. The accreditation will be valid for six years, meaning that shortly before the expiration date organisations will need to be re-accredited. 

The president of Wittenborg, Peter Birdsall, was part of the initiative that established the protocol for the new accreditation process, having represented NRTO. He mentioned that the existing providers were selected 18 years ago when the Code of Conduct was introduced. This decision aimed to establish language standards in response to the increasing number of international students coming to the Netherlands. 

“The reason why this new process has been adopted is that there are quite a few other large language-providers who would also like to join. Therefore, about a year and a half ago the National Commission instigated this initiative. It started with research and was followed by the development of a whole accreditation process to allow newcomers to come in. Besides enabling all language-testing providers to have an equal starting position, this will also provide prospective students with more options, and they will be able to choose the service that is most convenient for them,” Birdsall commented. 

Wittenborg’s Director of Corporate Governance Karen Penninga, also a member of the National Commission for the Code of Conduct, said that she is very happy with the final standard established for language tests. 

“The procedure to validate language tests based on objective quality criteria opens up the market for more providers, while ensuring the quality of the product and organisation of the testing. It is very important that Higher Education Institutions can rely on the quality of the language-testing providers that are accredited. Hobéon, together with the policy advisors and experts representing the NRTO, VH and UNL have worked hard to create this standard. We look forward to seeing the first providers go through the validation process.”

How it will work 

The assessment cycle will primarily evaluate language-testing providers in terms of how their organisations are structured and the main aspects regarding their products and services. Both procedures involve document analyses, and discussions will also be held with various stakeholders. 

Among other criteria, providers will be assessed on how they administer tests, prevent irregularities and ensure that their procedures are transparent and secure. Furthermore, organisations need to systematically manage relevant documentation and data, being able to provide it upon request, and maintaining a track record detailing the number of tests administered and their geographical reach. Providers are also expected to adhere to the Code of Ethics of the International Language Testing Association (ILTA), which consists of a series of principles based on moral philosophy and serves as a guide for good professional behaviour. 

The findings of these audits will be outlined in a report, which will also include a recommendation regarding whether or not to include the language test in the Code of Conduct’s language table. Based on that document, the steering committee will make a decision on whether to accredit the language-testing provider or not. 

The timeframe for this procedure typically spans 12 weeks. If a corrective action plan results from the validation study, the procedure may be extended by an additional six weeks. If the provider receives a negative recommendation for accreditation, they can implement improvements and reapply in the next application period, for the subsequent academic year. According to the new rules, Dutch higher education institutions must accept a minimum of three language tests listed by the Code of Conduct.

WUP 17/1/2024

by Ulisses Sawczuk

©WUAS Press