East Ham MP urges government to allow resits for students accused of cheating English test

East Ham MP Stephen Timms. Picture: KEN MEARS

East Ham MP Stephen Timms. Picture: KEN MEARS - Credit: Archant

Foreign students accused of cheating tests so they could stay in the UK face ‘desperate hardship’ as a result of the government’s handling of an English test scandal.

East Ham MP Stephen Timms appealed to the government to allow students who feel they were wrongly accused an opportunity to sit another test so they can get a visa during an appearance in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

“Many students face desperate hardship and need urgently to know the decision because their futures depend on it,” Mr Timms said.

He added affected students cannot get work, had been thrown off courses and had not been refunded meaning some had lost life savings.

The Home Office cancelled or cut short the visas of a number of overseas nationals granted permission to study in the UK following a scandal involving the faking of results in a Home Office approved test of English for international communication (TOEIC) exam in 2014.

A Panorama documentary exposed cheating at two centres – including one in Mile End – which exposed evidence of fraud including the offer of ‘guaranteed passes’ costing up to £500.

Educational Testing Service (ETS) – the American company which adminstered the test – reported to the Home Office that an analysis of 58,458 tests sat in 96 centres from 2011-14 found that 33,725 people cheated.

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‘Questionable results’ were found in 22,964 others with 2,000 considered to have not cheated.

Mr Timms told the Commons: “The claim by ETS that almost 97 per cent of those who sat the test had cheated seems to me completely implausible.”

There had been more than 4,600 removals and departures by the end of 2016, he said adding that 2,000 students denied visas were still here but banned from appealing in this country.

The Court of Appeal had ruled it was unlawful to force students to leave the UK to appeal.

Immigration minister, Caroline Nokes MP, said the government was waiting for a National Audit Office report to provide evidence.

“It’s absolutely right the Home Secretary [Sajid Javid] has the opportunity to consider their findings and come back to the House with a statement,” she said.

She added an appeals framework set by Parliament meant there could be no in country appeals for students but the Home Office was taking a ‘pragmatic approach’.

She said students affected by the response to the ETS analysis would have the right to appeal under a human rights claim.

“This was fraud on an industrial scale, and we should act responsibly,” Ms Nokes said.