SIM-UOL students frustrated over S$203 per paper exam fee & short notice, lack of clarity over exam format

Students were only told in February 2024 and given less than a month to make payment.

Hannah Martens | February 22, 2024, 06:08 PM


WhatsappAbout 1,500 students from the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) and one of its partner universities, the University of London (UOL), were surprised by news that they must pay an additional registration fee for their end-of-semester examinations.

This comes after UOL moved away from online exams to in-person exams.

The registration fee, payable to the British Council, is S$203 per exam.

UOL appointed British Council as the exam authority. Thus, British Council Singapore would oversee the onsite assessments, including exam registration, venue sourcing, logistics and live invigilation.

The S$203 per exam is on top of UOL's usual exam fees and online exam administration fees.

Speaking to Mothership, one student who wanted to be known as E shared that students are frustrated with the surprise fee and the decision to move away from online examinations.

Paying thousands to take exams

While students were notified on Nov. 16, 2023 of the change in assessment format from online to in-person, there was no information about additional fees in that email.

SIM only notified students of the extra British Council fees on Feb. 1, 2024.

According to the British Council website, exam registration began on Feb. 5 and continues until Feb. 28.

Each student must pay S$203 to the British Council for each paper during this period.

If students miss that period, students will have to pay S$244 per paper in a "Late Stage" registration period from Mar. 15 to Apr. 10.

Photo via British Council website.

"This is the fee that students are angry about as we did not ask for this," said E.

Students are aware that they have to pay their exam fees to UOL.

Screenshot via FAQs provided to students by SIM.

Students usually take four papers; thus, they now have to pay about S$3,400 in total to take the exams they need to pass the current semester, with the extra British Council registration fees of S$812.

Fee imposed due to resumption of in-person examinations

In response to Mothership's queries, SIM stated it "does not determine nor collect any examination-related fee".

"In ensuring academic integrity of its degrees, UOL holds the authority to source for and appoint examination venues. UOL has determined that venue-based examinations provide the most robust way to do so."

SIM added that it is actively engaging UOL and British Council to enhance communications and address concerns students have raised.

"We understand and empathise with the frustrations expressed by our students and are dedicated to supporting them through this period."

In-person exams with an online platform

Another issue SIM-UOL students face relates to the format of the exams.

The exams will be conducted via an online platform, even though students must be physically present in the exam hall.

Students were informed they would need a laptop to sit for the upcoming examinations and could only bring in minimal stationery in transparent pencil cases.

If students did not have a laptop, they were told to borrow one from friends or relatives.

If they did not have a laptop, they would be unable to sit for the exams and would be turned away.

E pointed out that most of his classmates use tablets, so some may incur extra costs to purchase or acquire a laptop just for their examinations.

In addition, he noted that they received no guidance on how to use the online examination platform.

Students have been left wondering how they will submit mathematical equations as part of their answers to finance-related examination questions.

In previous online exams, students would take pictures of their workings and upload them via the exam platform.

Photo courtesy of E.

When asked if they have a trial run before the exam, E said their scheduled preliminary exams in March would follow the same format as during the pandemic, where students would complete the exam at home and scan their work before submitting it online.

"This makes it particularly confusing why we are expected to adapt to a completely new approach for our main examination without any prior trial or introduction," he said.

E also echoed concerns other SIM-UOL students had regarding WiFi connectivity and the availability of power outlets at the exam venues.

British Council is not in direct contact with candidates

As the British Council is organising the UOL exams in Singapore, SIM pointed out that they are responsible for sourcing appropriate exam halls.

SIM stated that the location of exam centres for the May 2024 exams will only be confirmed in April 2024.

Since finding out about the change in exam format on Nov. 16, 2023, students have been petitioning for the continuation of home-based online exams.

They currently have over 1,300 signatures.

In response to Mothership's queries, a British Council spokesperson said they are solely the examination service provider and are not in direct contact with candidates before or outside the examination registration/delivery process.

They are not "aware of or responsible for any of the information they have received", said the spokesperson, adding:

"The British Council has been engaged by UOL to deliver its exam series using laptops and with live invigilation to ensure maximum integrity of the exams and prevent any kind of malpractice. As experts in the field of examinations, with many years of exam delivery experience, we are confident in delivering a positive experience for candidates, local partners and the university."

Students bearing the costs of all the changes

Students are frustrated with SIM-UOL for insisting on the shift to conducting online exams in person, but students are to bear the costs, said E.

He shared that his peers are worried about affording the costly registration fees on top of paying UOL to take the exams.

"The frustration and sense of injustice among students are palpable, as we feel overlooked and undervalued by both the school administration and UOL."

Top photos via Google Maps and E