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TOEIC students campaign marks next step with MPs support

The campaign in support of the international students affected by the ‘TOEIC cheating scandal’ made a forward step on January 24, with the creation of an All Party Parliamentary Group dedicated to the case, a sign of the support the campaign gathered in the UK parliament.

Students impacted by TOEIC cheating scandalThe students with representatives of Migrant Voice and MPs in Parliament Square. Photo: The PIE News

The first purpose of the APPG will be to ensure that the students have a chance to clear their names and resume their studies

The announcement came during a day of action in parliament organised by pressure group Migrant Voice.

The day started with a demonstration in Parliament Square and was followed by a meeting in the House of Commons chaired by Labour MP Stephen Timms and Migrant Voice director Nazek Ramadan.

Timms, a long-time supporter of the campaign, announced the new APPG will be established over a period of a few weeks and urged all the students involved to contact their local MP to ask them to join.

The first purpose of the APPG will be to ensure that the students who had their visa cancelled, were deported or detained, have a chance to clear their names and resume their studies.

“It was Stephen Timms’s idea, because he really is so keen to support these students”

Speaking to The PIE News at the demonstration, Timms said the MPs aim to allow students to resit the exam.

“There will be a cross-party call on the Home Secretary to allow the students to take new tests, and if they pass, to have their visas restored so they can continue their studies.

“I think that’s a very reasonable request to make to the Home Office and I hope the Home Secretary will agree to it,” he said.

Several MPs spoke to the students and expressed their support and solidarity, including Hilary Benn, Mike Gapes, Alan Whitehead, Jim Fitzpatrick, Afzal Khan (all Labour) and Martyn Day (SNP), whose partner, Nidhin Chand, was also affected by the case.

Gapes, Fitzpatrick, Khan and Day gave evidence last year to immigration minister Caroline Nokes in a debate led by former NUS president Wes Streeting MP.

Chand spoke of her own experience after having been accused of cheating on the TOEIC test and the psychological distress that it caused – while waiting for a visa extension to begin her PhD, she was arrested.

“When I am alone, I go back to that cell,” she said.

Other students offered an emotional testimony of the impact the Home Office decision has had on their lives: one student spoke of his experience in detention, while another of being fired from his job after the allegation.

“Think of the social pressure we feel,” he said.

Ramadan said she was “delighted” and confident that the APPG will raise the profile of the campaign and bring the case to a solution.

“It was Stephen Timms’s idea, because he really is so keen to support these students,” she told The PIE News.

“He has so many constituents [affected] and for a long time he has been trying his best and finally he felt that maybe this is the way forward, to give the cause a stronger platform.”

“I am surprised universities have not played any proper role in this campaign”

Ramadan said that the campaign has been receiving support from several MPs and members of the House of Lords, but now Migrant Voice is seeking more support from universities, which she said should be concerned about the reputational damage this could cause to the sector.

“We have contacted many universities, but we haven’t heard from them. This is our next challenge, to ensure that universities are supporting us,” she said.

“I am surprised that universities have not played any proper role yet in this campaign. This affects their students, it affects the reputation of the UK education system, especially abroad. Those students who were deported or left are not saying such nice things about studying in the UK, and the students who are here are telling their friends not to come to study in the UK.”

“I think universities need to be concerned about the potential damage to the reputation and they need to come forward, speak up and challenge this,” she said.

A representative  of the student group English Language Test Victims, Sheikh Amin, told The PIE he felt positive and confident the situation will be solved soon.

“Now our campaign is established in front of the MPs, they understand how much suffering we have been experiencing since 2014,” he said.

“[Five years ago] we didn’t realise that one single English language test would have dragged us for five years, but now we are really optimistic and hopeful. I believe that this year we’ll clear our names and get our life back.”

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