Exams 2021: DfE won't regulate to stop overseas exams

DfE says it will not prohibit exam boards from setting exams overseas - although most have been cancelled already

Dan Worth

Exams 2021: The DfE has said it will not stop exam boards from running exams overseas

The Department for Education has said it will not regulate to stop exam boards running exams overseas – although, with most boards that it regulates having already cancelled exams abroad, the decision may have little impact.

While students in the UK have had it confirmed that exams will not go ahead and teacher-assessed grades (TAGs) will be used instead, the consultation response from the DfE on international settings takes a different approach.

“We will regulate to prevent exams taking place in the UK in summer 2021. We will not prevent them taking place elsewhere in the world, where it might be considered safe and fair for exams to go ahead (but neither will we require the exam boards to offer exams elsewhere)," it said in its consultation response.

This decision has been made despite the DfE noting that over two-thirds of respondents to its consultations said exams overseas should also be prohibited (69 per cent, compared with 31 per cent who said they should not be).

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However, it seems unlikely that the DfE decision will have any bearing on exam providers' existing plans.

IGCSEs and A levels: Concerns over exams going ahead

AQA does not offer its domestic exams internationally while Cambridge International, which is preparing to run IGCSE and IA-level exams overseas (which are not regulated by Ofqual so would not be affected by any government decision), does not offer domestic GCSEs or A levels.

Pearson also does not intend to run domestic exams overseas.

The DfE decision will be do nothing to address concerns that many have over Cambridge International's decision to go ahead with IGCSE and IA-level exams, though – not least that it will create an uneven playing field, with students who receive TAGs being assessed against those who do end up sitting exams.

Despite this, Universities UK International told Tes that universities would continue to assess applications against a range of criteria: “As in every year, exam grades are just one of a range of criteria on which applications will be assessed this year," a spokesperson said.

"Students and parents can be confident that all universities will continue to show flexibility and understanding relating to applicants’ individual circumstances when making admissions decisions.”

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