Study abroad consultant IDP has officially acquired the IELTS business in India of the British Council. The English proficiency testing rights have been acquired for a handsome sum of £130 million on a cash-free and debt-free basis. In a move that has spurred innumerable Indian education agents to raise their voices, all IELTS tests in the country will be delivered via IDP from 25th July 2021. The flurry of questions surrounding the acquisition is unsurprising- India is the biggest IELTS market in terms of volumes. The ASACI (Association of Study Abroad Consultants in India) has expressed anxieties over an impending monopoly and may approach the CCI (Competition Commission of India). IELTS is globally conducted by Cambridge Assessment English, British Council, and IDP. The exam was separately conducted by the British Council and IDP Education previously. All British Council India IELTS employees will also be shifted to the IDP unit upon completion of the deal with all related formalities by August 2021.
What would be the Impact on Students?
Students should note that British Council will not offer IELTS from July 25th in India. New bookings have already been stopped. Some industry experts feel that the new deal will benefit students since there will be zero service interruptions during the transfer of operations to IDP. If a student has already taken IELTS with the British Council, there will be no impact and the result will have validity. Those who have taken paper-based tests before 11th July 2021 will have no impact. Those booking after this date will still give the test on the scheduled date although they may have to shift to an IDP testing location nearby. Computer-delivered tests before 25th July 2021 will not be impacted and students may take the same with the British Council as per the schedule. For tests after this date, students may have to shift to an IDP testing location nearby. Teams will contact students for sharing the new login details.
What’s the Industry Voice?
ASACI has raised a key objection- IDP already provides a whole service suite, while being both agent (for universities who pay it a fee for sending them international students) and counselor (helping students apply) and also a conductor of tests with coaching provisions. The acquisition may be anti-competitive while IDP has stated that they do not share any data of candidates between student placement teams at IDP and IELTS. General Secretary of AAERI, Govindachari Balaji, has also stated that the news has raised several questions which may lead to market confusion and arbitration at the CCI. Agents fear that students registering at IDP will be approached by IDP counselors for admission. There could be a clear conflict of interest as per industry experts like MD of SIEC Pty Ltd, Sonya Singh. Singh stated that IDP Education may influence the international student market in an unfair manner via this acquisition while expressing apprehensions about the collection of test takers’ information. All tests will take place at IDP-controlled centers and all students registering will be on their database according to her. The industry feels that this move may leave out other competing agencies.
What will happen to the student’s data?
IDP Education’s regional director (South Asia), Piyush Kumar, has stated that the company has a proven track record of adhering to the highest standards of data privacy. He reiterated that IDP does not share any candidate data between IDP’s student placement division and IELTS. It may be all right if students allow sharing of personal data for services other than the examination. Yet, agents still remain uncomfortable about losing out students to the IDP.
Would there be price hikes for the exam?
Some industry players feel that prices may not be hiked immediately although some feel that monopoly in any business may lead to pricing increasing gradually for IELTS tests. With a single player in the segment, price hikes can be a possibility in the near future.
Will the candidature number change?
The candidature number is expected to change. The IDP team will reach out to all students for confirming new login details.
Will the change make the test difficult or easier?
The jury is out on whether the new acquisition will ease the test or make it tougher. While some feel that students will benefit from no service interruptions, there are questions pertaining to whether IDP will demarcate their jobs as agents promoting global education and IELTS examiners and whether there will be any legal ramifications in the future. IELTS will however be available through IDP in all major cities and locations throughout India. The test locations of the British Council will steadily be rebranded as IDP IELTS. IDP will be contacting students with new system login details.
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