English Language Proficiency Requirement Guidelines Revised

McGraw Tower, Uris Library, Ho Plaza, and Cayuga Lake in fall.

October 3, 2022

The Graduate School and the Center for Teaching Innovation (CTI) are pleased to announce their recent collaborative update of the English Language Proficiency Requirement guidelines for international graduate student admissions and teaching assistant (TA) appointments.

Leadership began reexamining the processes in place after the 2020 Graduate and Professional Community Initiative (GPCI) identified ways in which some of the prior guidelines and policies had negatively affected some international graduate and professional students.

“The feedback we received about the prior policy from student-members of the GPSA was incredibly helpful. They raised many good points and flagged several items that really did need to be reevaluated,” said Kathryn J. Boor, dean of the Graduate School and vice provost for graduate education. “With input from ESL experts and an advisory group, I’m so pleased that the new policies are much more transparent and applicant-friendly.”

For applicants, the most significant change will be the revised guidelines by which they can attest to their fluency in English as a first language in order to be admitted into a graduate program at Cornell. This is especially important for students who are fluent in English but who do not come to Cornell from countries on the Graduate School’s expanded exemption list. Furthermore, these new guidelines clearly distinguish between the English language proficiency requirements for admissions and the more stringent standards necessary to begin a TA appointment, based on an applicant’s TOEFL or IELTS scores at the time they apply.

“We’ll monitor how the new policy and admissions guidelines are received by applicants this year and continue to seek ways to make the process clear, intuitive, and transparent,” said Boor.

A recent program review of ITAP, under the direction of the Vice Provost for Academic Innovation, identified three areas for change: a more transparent program description, a systematic assessment of the program’s success, and improved program processes. These changes were successfully implemented this past year. Of significance, online English language assessments are now available throughout the year, rather than at specific times of the year. CTI continues to work in partnership with departments to ensure that all TAs are better prepared and supported in their teaching responsibilities at Cornell.  

More information about the English Language Proficiency Requirement can be found on the Graduate School and CTI websites.