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Business News/ Companies / Why Oxford University ended its contract with TCS

Why Oxford University ended its contract with TCS

TCS had partnered with Oxford barely a year ago to provide technical services for admission tests to the university

Thousands of students appear for Oxford University’s tests every year. (AP)Premium
Thousands of students appear for Oxford University’s tests every year. (AP)

Oxford University has severed its partnership with Tata Consultancy Services Ltd as its admission test provider citing “technical problems" following feedback from candidates, test centres and parents.

Oxford University confirmed to Mint that India’s leading IT services provider will not be “involved" with the global university going ahead.

Although the deal size or the exit clause couldn’t be immediately ascertained, the Oxford University partnership was an important contract for TCS, allowing it an opportunity to show its prowess in conducting digital assessments on a large scale.

TCS didn't immediately reply to queries on the termination of its partnership with Oxford University.

Phil Fersht, chief executive of US-based HfS Research, an outsourcing-research firm, said while the deal would not have been large for TCS—“most likely in the $5 million range"—as a platform solution “it would have been highly profitable once up and running, and replicable to sell to other learning institutions".

The alliance between TCS and Oxford was barely a year old. TCS had replaced Cambridge Admissions Assessment Testing in providing technical services for the university’s admission tests. The tests were conducted by TCS iON—the learning, development and assessment focused unit of TCS.

“Following the technical problems experienced by some candidates during the delivery of this year’s online admissions tests by a new provider, TCS will not be involved in the delivery of Oxford admissions tests going forward," Oxford University said in an email response to Mint

“This decision has been made following careful consideration of the issues, as well as feedback from candidates, teachers and test centres," the university said in its response. 

On its website, the university stated that its pro-vice-chancellor for education, Martin Williams, “has recently written to all test centres to communicate our decision to end our relationship with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS)".

“University institutions are very sensitive about the efficacy, security and reliability of their assessment solutions and this is really bad news for TCS, especially with Oxford being the UK’s most prestigious university alongside Cambridge," said Fersht. 

“While TCS should be able to reassure existing clients they can address any future problems, their reputation in this space is tarnished and will take some time to recover. With the sensitivities around AI security in the current climate, which are very high in the university sector currently, this incident will surely hold back TCS’ progress in this market," he added.

India has one of the largest batches of students heading out to global universities. Thousands of students appear for Oxford University’s tests every year for admissions to its undergraduate colleges. 

The UK remains one of the most sought-after destinations for students from India along with Australia, Canada, Germany and the US.

Oxford University, which administers more than 30 colleges under it, said details of its new arrangement for the tests will be communicated at the start of the next admissions round.

It was in June last year that Oxford had announced its decision to have TCS administer its admission tests. The university’s Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) and BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) continued to be handled by Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing. Handling of the university’s Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT) also remained unchanged.

“All other tests used in Oxford undergraduate admissions will require applicants’ schools and colleges to follow a new process to apply for authorisation to become TCS test centres," the university had then stated.

TCS iON offers a host of assessment services, and has assessed more than 400 million candidates.

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Devina Sengupta
Devina tracks and writes on workplaces, human resources and education for Mint. She also occaisionally writes an opinion column. She hosts a podcast on interesting HR trends in corporate India called The Working Life.
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Published: 23 Jan 2024, 02:45 PM IST
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