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QPEC answers Cambridge University’s charges

6 November 2005

QPEC answers Cambridge University’s charges

Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) has asked QPEC to change our FactFile (see on school exams, which contains a strong critique of the company’s activities in New Zealand.

QPEC has declined to make these changes, and has laid out the reasons in a letter to CIE. QPEC is today releasing the letter from CIE along with our response – both are on our website at,

CIE states in the letter that it does not tout for business. This is untrue – we give a specific example of touting in the factfile itself. It is true however that for the most part the touting has been done by New Zealand state secondary schools themselves, and in particular Auckland Grammar, on behalf of CIE.

For example Alan Peachey – former Principal of Rangitoto College and now a National Party MP said last year that considerable pressure had been put on him to accept Cambridge exams at Rangitoto College, but he resisted it because he thought it was important to concentrate on getting the NCEA right.

CIE claims that it is not in New Zealand to make money, but to ‘raise educational standards through assessment’. This is just not true. It is public knowledge that when CIE was restructured in 1999, it faced annual losses of £400,000 and had rapidly declining markets.

It was forced to become a profit-making body to contribute towards a three million pound annual sum paid by its parent body to Cambridge University’s community chest.

While CIE is dressed up in the language of charity, what it is in reality is a company paying a large dividend to its sole shareholder. Why New Zealand state schools should contribute towards the upkeep of Cambridge University is not clear to QPEC.

CIE runs essentially like an international franchise. They licence schools to use their name and products, and schools pay for that licence (currently £1060 per school per year). If the schools sell lots of products (£5,000 worth of examinations in a year) CIE waives the fee. If schools do well in the exam compared to other countries (and given that CIE customer base is primarily in developing countries, New Zealand schools expect to do well), they get Fellowship status. For that status, they receive:

The chance to nominate one student for the annual International Fellowship Scholarship that awards students from Fellowship Centres, £1,500 each year for three years of higher education - £250 Amazon book token -An attractive wall plaque made from brushed stainless steel, designed for prominent display -Permission to use the words Cambridge International Fellowship Centre in your Cambridge logo - A certificate for framing and wall mounting -£100 voucher to spend on your choice of CIE marketing support materials -A feature and photograph on CIE Online with a link to your Centre's website -A feature in a future issue of International Outlook -A CIE press release announcing your achievement of Fellowship status sent to local, national and trade media.

There are some questions that QPEC would like answers on from CIE. The company claims it inspects schools for “quality” before allowing them to take on CIE exams. We are interested in whether CIE is suggesting it might turn down some New Zealand schools for registration.

QPEC is also interested in finding out about Cambridge exams which appear to be incorporating New Zealand curriculum content. This is clearly prepared by New Zealand teachers and appears to be essentially our own course material sold back to our own schools by CIE.

We have asked CIE whether these courses were paid for by CIE or given on a voluntary basis by state schools; in other words paid for by the NZ government.

Both CIE’s letter, which was not confidential, and our response is on the QPEC website. We will also publish CIEs response when it arrives, subject to no confidentiality on their part.


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