EU cancels entrance exam after switch to online testing

EU cancels entrance exam after switch to online testing
Опубликовано: Thursday, 06 April 2023 13:28

The bloc’s unprecedented decision comes amid concerns over digital-only testing from EU applicants.

For the first time ever, the EU’s hiring agency canceled a recruitment examination that took place late last year due to technical problems related to being conducted online.

The move came after the agency recently announced plans to permanently replace in-person exams with virtual testing.

After almost 200 candidates reported problems with the remote testing system in the last round, the bloc’s European Personnel Selection Office, or EPSO, last week canceled the results and postponed the test to an unspecified date in the “near future.”

The personnel office cited “technical dysfunctions and data protection concerns’’ as the main reasons for canceling the online entry exam, which was held on November 25.

The shift to remote proctoring had been met by strong resistance from candidates, who complained that the U.S.-based testing contractor Prometric was problematic, as reported by POLITICO in February. EPSO, for its part, argued that the shift would make the process more eco-friendly and inclusive.

The decision to cancel the test led to fresh accusations that the EU misused taxpayers’ money and threw to waste weeks of test prep.

“I had to put in a lot of time, energy and money to take this exam,’’ said Jennifer Dennes, an EU contractor who is seeking to become permanent staff, and who had passed the test that was subsequently canceled. She added: “I have made all these sacrifices for nothing.”

The notoriously rigorous concours is among the latest targets for the EU’s ongoing digitalization process, which appears increasingly fraught.

The bloc’s hiring agency pointed to “an accumulation of issues [with remotely proctored tests] and mounting pressure from different stakeholders” in an explanatory note released on Monday.

The personnel body, which is overseen by the European Commission, came out with its decision just weeks after EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly opened a probe into its shift to online exams.

A spokesperson for the Ombudsman told POLITICO it received 31 complaints related to the November competition.

The results were announced on January 16, and successful candidates had been ready to move on to the interview stage.

A Commission spokesperson told POLITICO that out of 4,600 tests, 197 complaints had been lodged, amounting to 4.2 percent. Among those, 107 candidates (2.3 percent) were offered to retake the test while the remaining 90 claims (1.9 percent) were rejected by EPSO on the grounds that they were either unsubstantiated or candidates hadn’t followed instructions.

In light of the figures, several aspiring Eurocrats told POLITICO they felt that the EU personnel body overreacted.

“It is disappointing that they canceled the competition for everyone,” Dennes said. “They should have kept the results for most applicants, while allowing those who had technical issues to retake the test,” she added, reflecting a view common among test-takers.

EPSO countered that offering a redo to only candidates reporting issues would have amounted to bias, undermining testing standards.

Disgruntled candidates also accused the bloc’s hiring agency of favoring insiders, claiming that EU employees who channeled their complaints through internal trade unions were notified of the cancellation before everyone else.

But the Commission spokesperson said that EPSO took its decision on March 29, and sent a letter to all candidates on March 31.

The spokesperson said that the EU remains confident about remote testing and will continue to use “improved online selection procedures” in future EPSO competitions.

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