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The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia accepted a staff recommendation Tuesday to move forward with administrative processes that could lead to the revocation of Virginia International University’s certificate to operate. An audit done by the agency uncovered concerns about academic quality in VIU’s online programs, including concerns about “rampant plagiarism” by students; online classes that are “patently deficient” in terms of quality and content; and the admission of “large numbers” of students with inadequate English proficiency.

The audit by Virginia state regulators found that “the single most important factor contributing to the substandard quality of online education at VIU is the institution’s acceptance of international students with an abysmally poor command of the English language. This is especially true for graduate-level programs.” VIU, which according to its website enrolled 632 students in 2017-18, predominantly enrolls international students. It is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Independent Colleges and Schools, an accreditor with a troubled past.

J. Chapman Petersen, a lawyer for VIU, said he is confident that VIU and SCHEV will come to a resolution that will allow VIU to continue operating. In a written response to SCHEV, VIU said it is prepared if necessary to shut down its online programs, which were the focus of the negative audit, in order to avoid damage to the rest of the institution. (It's worth noting, however, that auditors wrote that they did not believe the deficiencies they identified were limited to VIU's online classes. They cited a number of reasons for reaching this conclusion, including the lack of English proficiency they identified within the student population and the fact that the same faculty were teaching online and face-to-face classes.)

VIU said in its written response it has made a number of changes to its course offerings in response to the audit, including changes relating to the detection and punishment of plagiarism. "Additionally, although alleged in the 2018 audit findings, VIU does not admit students with poor command of the English language," VIU's response reads. "VIU requires proof of English proficiency in the form of (1) a TOEFL [Test of English as a Foreign Language] or IELTS [International English Language Testing System] score, (2) proof of education in the United States, or (3) completion of an accredited ESL [English as a second language] program." VIU said it can provide documentation that all students identified in the audit had either completed education in the U.S. or an ESL program.