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UK: Exam fraud fallout hits 57 private colleges, 3 unis

The Home Office has suspended the licences of 57 private UK colleges, launched a criminal investigation into ETS Global Ltd., the European subsidiary of global testing giant ETS and suspended international recruitment at three universities, after an investigation concluded that around 45,000 immigrants may have fraudulently obtained English language test certificates.

Glyndwr University has lost its HTS status after the test scores of more than 230 students it sponsored were identified as being invalid

Brokenshire described how a "detailed and wide-ranging" investigation uncovered more than 29,000 invalid and 19,000 questionable results of ETS tests taken in 2012 and 2013

In an emergency statement to the House of Commons, Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said that work has already begun to identify and remove anyone in the country illegally as a result of the falsified tests.

“The Government does not take such action lightly. But we are clear that this kind of irresponsibility cannot go without serious sanction”

Brokenshire described how a “detailed and wide-ranging” investigation by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and the National Crime Agency uncovered more than 29,000 invalid results and 19,000 questionable results of ETS tests taken in 2012 and 2013 – numbers that are expected to climb as more data is obtained.

“ETS takes this announcement extremely seriously,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “The Home Office has clearly outlined wide-ranging criminal activity by individuals trying to circumvent all parts of the UK immigration system, which represents a threat to all English language testing providers.”

“Integrity and security of our tests is a top priority and we are proactively putting in place significant security reforms for our tests,” it continued, adding that it would continue to cooperate with the Home Office.

ETS’s licence to conduct tests for immigration purposes ended in April, after a BBC documentary uncovered systemic cheating in a TOEIC exam at four London colleges. Its bigger TOEFL exam was not embroiled in the scandal but shared a licence with TOEIC for Secure English Language Testing (SELT).

The investigation into this “organised criminality” also includes a number of colleges and universities for their failure to ensure that the overseas students they sponsor adhere to UK immigration legislation.

Glyndwr University has lost its ‘highly trusted’ sponsor status after the test scores of more than 230 students it sponsored were identified as being invalid, while the University of West London (UWL) and the University of Bedfordshire have been barred from sponsoring new international students pending further investigations to decide whether they will also be suspended.

Vice Chancellor at UWL, Peter John said, “The University of West London’s Highly Trusted Status licence has not been suspended. However, our Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) has been reduced to zero, pending an external audit by UKVI early next week. We will be working closely with UKVI over the next seven days and will issue a further statement after that time.”

Brokenshire noted that proof of academic qualifications, attendance at an educational institution and compliance with the Immigration Rules are all required for obtaining a UK student visa.

“It is highly doubtful that many of the colleges and some universities were fulfilling their duties as ‘highly-trusted sponsors'”

“If these student visa applicants had to cheat to pass an English language test it is highly doubtful that many of the colleges and some universities that sponsored them in numbers were fulfilling their duties as ‘highly-trusted sponsors’,” he said.

He added that as many as three-quarters of the file checks by UKVI officers were a cause for concern at some further education (FE) colleges, saying that at one college a staff member had told officers they “were not encouraged to report students’ absence or failure because doing so would reduce the college’s income and jeopardise its right to sponsor foreign students”.

Brokenshire added that because “much of the worst abuse” uncovered through the investigation took place at London sub-campuses, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) will be conducting inspections in order to determine whether action should be taken against their parent campuses.

The tax body HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has also identified a number of foreign university students earning over £20,000 a year, apparently in violation of laws stating that they can work a maximum of 20 hours a week during term time.

Nearly 300 overseas students at the private London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) worked and paid tax last year, with one student working 60 hours a week for six months, the government has claimed.

“The Government does not take such action lightly,” Brokenshire said. “But we are clear that this kind of irresponsibility cannot go without serious sanction.”

“The steps I have outlined today shows we will not hesitate to take firm action against those – students, colleges and universities – who do not abide by their legal responsibilities and resolutely pursue organised criminality to bring those responsible to justice.”

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46 Responses to UK: Exam fraud fallout hits 57 private colleges, 3 unis

    • I recently got my degree in Psychology with Criminology from UWL and found them to be very honest, reliable and dedicated to making the student experience a really pleasant one. The support was outstanding and they are a very good university. This story will most certainly discredit all that hard work that the majority of tutors have put in to ensure students do well and that is a real shame.

  1. This has been a long time coming and maybe the HMRC and even the Charity Commissioners start to unravel the finances of universities that are linked to so called colleges that are claiming VAT free exclusions.

  2. I know that that an english language certicate for visa renuwal cost about £150, a genuin one, lately i hear that international students have to pay 300- 500 pounds to get one, no wonder!

    • i was studying in college in april 2013 QAA came in investigated and said well done. same thing happened in SEP 2013 but college was revoked in january 2014. i got admission in new college QAA done inspection in january and said well done. now licence is suspended. i am genuine student with 7 bands in IELTS. got visa 2 months ago cost me £3500 now have to do again whats my fault. UKBA it self is a scam.

  3. If the authorities have the courage to look closer, they would perhaps either suspend or revoked HTS licences from the majority of universities and colleges in the UK.
    Universities, when compared to private colleges appear squeaky clean with regards to their HTS sponsor duties – reality is far from the truth.

  4. It seems like the exact same politically-driven broad brush suspension technique as used in 2010. In that case there were many genuine colleges (like Malvern House) who proved it to be baseless and a pre-election motive. I have nothing but sympathy for any genuine schools in the 57. I have little/no sympathy for the rest

  5. There are lot of students working morethan 60 hours in week even without having a valid visa.These students got their visa rejected because of fraud English exam, then also they appealed against the decision and case is pending in court for years, they are enjoying their life in UK without paying College fee or anything and working freely

  6. if some one need the proof for students working more than 60 hours in week, go to Nursing homes , one example Cedars residential care home, Sudbury Rd, Halstead CO9 2BB

    • This is a political game its time for the conservative party to regain its vote from the public and built admiration doing stupidity by playing with the future of the innocent international students who pay a lot of money and work little so that they can have cover some expenses. Government accepts these english certificate and issues visas, Yes those students who did so should be found but what about the other students whose future is in bid. Is there someone to think about us.

    • Its all political game, everyone is blaming the colleges and playing with the future of the genuine students. Those students who have cheated are less in numbers and they should be punished not all students who pay a lot and today are drown in a situation like this. The conservative party didnt get anything else to gain public support again and brought students issue again.

  7. I think govt should think,this is 21st century , those are real student what about them, I think those who done wrong they should punished not all of them, we will lose lots of revenue for that,our economy is growing slowly,if u compare with other country if we have better communication with rest of the world good for our economy.this student bring revenue for country from abroad ,if they can’t coming uk they will go other country, so we will lose revenue& some develop country will take advantage fro that,we should re think about it
    Thank you

  8. what a politics , give admission to international student when money came in your country then close the colleges

  9. if college are suspend . but couple of students have in all of college they are not fruad . my question that what should they are do

  10. I still at UWL in the music faculty between 2012-2013. Still this news is a shock! I believe the university will survive through this crisis.

  11. I have studied in London School of Business and Finance. I paid a huge amount for the masters program but the college didn’t provide quality education and the college was a scam.
    The college was changing it’s accreditation universities every 6 months. LSBF wasted 2 years of my life and I have to start from scratch now.
    The LSBF college is still operating and the shocking thing is that the college was give Tier 4 (Highly Trusted) sponsorship license from UKBA. It seems the UKBA is supporting this scam and fraud. UK is no more known as providing the quality education to overseas students anymore.

  12. I want this country as a tier4 but college is was fake I studied properly but college issue the certificate fake .who is the libel for destroy for my life? Give advice pls

  13. So it is visa fraud and testing which has led to so many colleges having their licences revoked NOT the teachers. That is interesting.

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