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Experts in Language Assessment

Cambridge to launch new institute for high-tech language teaching and testing

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Cambridge English Language Assessment has announced the establishment of a new Institute to develop the next generation of computer-based tools for language teaching and assessment. The Institute will be launched in October 2013.

In recent years Cambridge English Language Assessment has developed computer-based tools to support the development and administration of its tests and examinations, taken by over 4 million learners worldwide. It is now funding a virtual Institute within Cambridge University to carry this work forward as part of the Cambridge English concept. It will form part of the University’s interdisciplinary Language Sciences Initiative.

Drawing together teams from computing, engineering, linguistics and language assessment the Cambridge University Institute for Automated Language Teaching and Assessment (ALTA) will investigate new ways of using technology to enhance language learning and will develop cutting-edge approaches to assessment which will benefit learners and teachers worldwide.

Sponsorship from Cambridge English will provide the funding for a team of PhD students and post-doctoral researchers and will focus on a range of topics, including:

  • text and speech processing
  • machine learning
  • corpus development and analysis
  • security, platforms and deployment

Dr Michael Milanovic, Chief Executive of Cambridge English Language Assessment will oversee the programme as a whole. As Dr Milanovic explains:

“Cambridge English already has extensive experience in using technology to support language learning, including the multi-million word Cambridge Learner Corpus which is a uniquely extensive database of learners’ English which is used to enhance Cambridge English exams and learning materials.

Huge advances in areas like speech recognition and machine learning mean that computers can now complement the work of human assessors, giving surprisingly accurate evaluations of language and helping to diagnose areas for improvement. A lot of ground-breaking work is being done within Cambridge University, and the new Institute will bring this together, adding a new dimension to language learning.

Automated assessment won’t replace human examiners anytime soon, but it can add great value to their work. For example, it can provide additional layers of quality control, speed up processes and allow teachers to offer more objective in-course tests which give detailed diagnostic feedback to help students to improve their English more effectively.”

Professor Ted Briscoe from the University’s Computer Laboratory will be the first Director of the Institute and will coordinate the academic programme.

Dr Nick Saville, Director of Research and Validation, together with colleagues in his team will be responsible for the academic contributions from Cambridge English Language Assessment and the integration of outcomes into operational assessment and learning systems.

Applications are currently being accepted for funded PhD and Research Associate positions in Cambridge – for more information, please visit and

One Response

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  1. We’re really looking forward to it..

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