The news has major ramifications for the English language testing marketplace, as ETS-delivered TOEFL and TOEIC exams were among the tests the most widely used by visa applicants seeking to prove their English language level as part of the visa process.
The US firm has confirmed that it made the decision to end licence arrangements
“ETS has made the decision not to extend our Secure English-language Testing (SELT) license with the Home Office. As a result, TOEIC® and TOEFL iBT® testing will no longer be offered for UK visa-granting purposes,” said ETS in a statement on its website.
A spokesperson for TOEFL confirmed the decision was made by ETS because of third party vendors violating its global security protocols, which the company is investigating. “We have no plans to seek renewal of the licensing arrangement at this time but won’t rule it out in the future,” he told The PIE News. “The TOEFL can still be used, as it always has been for university admission… We just can’t allow it to be used as part of the UK visa-granting process.”
While referencing the fact that only fraud in its TOEIC exam was ever uncovered – and the continued high security standards of its more popular TOEFL exam – the company said, “we’ve made this decision in response to the security challenges portrayed in the BBC program.
“We acknowledge that we fell short of our own high standards and sincerely regret the dishonest activities of third party contractors in the UK whose job it was to administer the TOEIC tests honestly and fairly. When applied properly, our global security protocols prevent and detect incidents of fraud.”
The Home Office wrote to many stakeholders informing them of the situation on 17 April. “Our licence agreement with ETS, in UK and overseas, ended on 5 April 2014 and will not be extended,” wrote Christine Douglas, National Lead for Temporary Migration.
“We have suspended accepting ETS tests as evidence of English language ability. Applicants wishing to make an application should take a test with an alternative provider from the list.”
The TOEIC fraud scandal uncovered involved two UK-based testing centres – one of which, Eden College International, has a sister school in Dublin that was also involved in visa fraud allegations in Ireland this week.