UK based patent trainees must be thinking that they’ve done something wrong in a previous life.
Last year the EQE exams were held in Bristol in a venue that attracted a number of complaints. This year’s UK exams included a venue that didn’t have tables at the start of the exam.
Now, a number of UK based EQE candidates, for both the 2017 pre-exam and 2017 main exam, have been told that they have not secured a place at the UK venue in Birmingham (the “WFC The Venue” in Walsall) and are going to have to travel to Munich (the MOC centre).
Warning: those involved in the organisation of the EQE exams in the UK are encouraged to read the apology notice1 below before proceeding….
How many people are affected by this issue2 is not clear but in a call to the EQE Secretariat yesterday, one candidate at Keltie was told the problem impacts “dozens and dozens” of people. This, the EQE Secretariat representative suggested, shouldn’t be regarded as a problem apparently as many candidates don’t have an exam venue in their home country and have to make a trip to another country to sit the EQE exams! IPcopy suggests that the exams are stressful enough without having to deal with issues like this!3.
IPcopy cannot understand how this shortfall in UK venue space has come about.
The emails sent out by the EQE Secretariat to candidates yesterday seemed to place the blame at the feet of CIPA (”The venue has been made available by CIPA on behalf of the UK-IPO”).
CIPA, IPcopy understands, feels caught between the EQE Secretariat’s strict rules relating to the exam venues and the fact that CIPA bears the entire cost of the exam venue.
We have not seen a copy of the rules that CIPA has to take into consideration. One candidate at Keltie however noted that he’d not detected much difference between the Bristol EQE venue and the venue used for the recent UK exams (apart from presumably the EQE venue being furnished with tables….).
We therefore suspect that the real issue is one of cost. The Birmingham venue is, we believe, taking place in “The Stadium Suite” which has a hire cost of £1100 per day (+VAT we assume). The EQE exams (pre and main exam) are spread over 4 days which gives a hire cost of £4400. The cost of other venue options was apparently too high.
IPcopy cannot believe the WFC venue in Walsall is the only compliant venue in the UK at a reasonable price point. Surely there are other options that could hold everyone? Or, multiple venues that could be booked?
Assuming there are around 200 candidates4 then the chosen venue comes to around £22 per head. I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sure many firms in the UK would be willing to pay double that figure (at least) to avoid the cost of airfare and extra accommodation in Germany (IPcopy speculates that given the length of time it would take to travel to Munich many candidates may be wanting to build an extra day into their travel schedule to allow rest before the exam day and to mitigate against unexpected travel delays).
So, some questions remain
- Why didn’t CIPA ask for help with the venue costs from the profession?
- The EQE pre-exam registration closed in May so numbers for that exam have been known around 6 months. We presume that the numbers for the main exam could have been estimated pretty accurately based on the number of people taking the pre-exam successfully last year and the number of people who failed some of the main exams last year. Why has this been flagged as an issue this late in the day?
- Have the rules specified by the EQE Secretariat changed in the last year? If not, do we not have a list of past venues that could have taken overflow or been used? Would it not be possible to maintain a list of all known compliant venues to avoid this issue?
- How many people are actually affected for the 2017 exams?
- How many people are normally affected?
- What happens if someone loses their baggage (books and notes) on the flight over?
- Are we seriously suggesting that between all the sports halls, exam centres, Universities and other venues in the UK, that there is nowhere else the exams could take place? Where do other professional exams take place?
- Is there time to arrange a different venue (the EQE Secretariat emails would suggest not but this wouldn’t be the first Euro related decision that this author wants to see overturned….5)
What’s probably particularly galling to UK candidates is this article which was published on Monday on the CIPA Informals website which states with respect to the Walsall venue:
“There will be sufficient room for candidates to bring as much reference material as they want.”
This may be the case but as another of our candidates observed: “Yes, but no room for the actual candidates.”
IPcopy would love to hear from other firms that are affected (we have heard informally from at least 4 other firms). Please sound off in the comments below.
It would also be good to know if there’s any way that this can be challenged…
IPcopy 23 November 2016
1This blog piece may be regarded as unfair by the people involved in organising the venues for the EQE. If that is the case then I apologise. However, for the EQE candidates affected, this situation is certainly unwelcome and, for those that I’ve spoken to, is most certainly regarded as unfair.
2IPcopy notes that Keltie has 6 candidates sitting one or more EQE exams in 2017. Three of these will be going to Munich – two pre-exam candidates and one candidate sitting a single exam in the main exam group
3I’m sure the EQE Secretariat comment must be a great comfort for all those affected! The UK has one of the largest group of candidates sitting the exams and, IPcopy would venture, it’s not unreasonable to expect that suitable space should be available in the UK.
4We’re guessing at this figure but it seems reasonable based on the number of people based in the UK that sat the exams last year
5Yes, I totally just referenced Brexit. I am the 48% and I will not be quiet!
This happened for the 2016 EQE’s as well, though perhaps on a smaller scale – at least two of the trainees at my firm (which will remain anonymous) were sent to Munich to do their Pre-EQE, despite there being plenty of space available at the UK exam centre (as I understood it).
At our firm, of the 6 candidates for the pre-EQE, 4 have been sent to Munich
I’m off to Munich – the annoying thing being that if I’d applied there in the first place I’d probably have had a better chance of arranging ‘reasonable adjustments’ than I have this late in the day. (I’m that odd person who turned up at Bristol with her own chair, not an option when going to Munich…) At least one other person in our Scottish offices is also going to Munich, I don’t know about the wider firm yet.
We note that there’s also now a post up on the Informals blog (https://yellowsheet.wordpress.com/2016/11/23/a-message-from-the-education-coordinators-regarding-the-uk-eqe-venue/)
Hi, we at the Informals are currently monitoring the situation, and are in the process of preparing an Open Letter.
Regarding 2 – I have surveyed a few firms and so far my figures points to an average of 50% of candidates being moved from Walsall to Munich, which is frankly outrageous.
Thank you for doing the research on the venue costs. This is particularly interesting given the column from the Chief Executive in November’s CIPA Journal, which states that they have £20000 budget, claiming that “purpose-built” venues would be £50000+.
There are no words for this!! Who goes to look at a venue, realises it can probably take about 2/3 candidates, and then says yes, this is the one?!?!
I’d just like to highlight that I have to drive past the UK venue on my way to the local airport…
People who are sitting the main exam – does it look like it’s the people sitting 1/2/3 papers that have been sent to Munich, or have people sitting all 4 papers been sent their too? (Trying to figure out whether there’s a pattern based on what’s happening at my firm.)
We have one candidate sitting all four exams here. He’s been allocated Walsall. I think he’s aware of around 3 or 4 others taking all four exams – again IPcopy understands they have the UK venue.
I too am sitting all four and have been allocated Walsall. My colleague who is just taking Paper A is Munich-bound.
After the Bristol debacle this year, and on a much smaller scale the level of incompetence displayed in all of my interactions with CIPA this year, I do wonder what is going on there.
In this case, someone (or some people) have knowingly signed off on the selection of Walsall despite it not having enough seats for the number of candidates, and thus knowing that first choices would not be accommodated.
The only rational explanation for this decision that I can think of is that an assumption was made that priority would be given to UK-based candidates. I wonder if this actually happened. Even if it did, it seems a questionable decision given its impact.
The alternative is that the decision was taken with no regard for the impact, with sole regard being given to cost. No doubt there is substantial and ugly politics behind the scenes – there does appear to be an underlying animosity between CIPA and the IPO surrounding the EQE.
I strongly agree that candidates (and more importantly, their employers who are most likely paying) should have been consulted on whether they wished to chip in. It is disappointing to read the chief executive’s column in the Journal in which he says that if it becomes difficult to provide the right conditions, we may have to “look” at how we fund the venue. Surely the opportunity to do that was earlier this year.
Given we are faced with another EQE “crisis” a call should be made for transparency on the chain of decisions that led to (i) Bristol 2016 and now (ii) Walsall, sorry Munich 2017, because something is going wrong.