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ETS exams suspended in UK after TV fraud expose

TOEFL and TOEIC exam testing in the UK has been temporarily suspended after a BBC Panorama investigation that was aired on Monday 10 Feb has revealed systemic cheating by candidates taking a TOEIC exam, with an extract of the programme revealing “fake sitters” at one test centre in the UK run by Eden College International.

Extract from the website, posted on Feb 8 2014

All in-country Tier 4 student visa applicants using ETS-delivered exams have been notified that their applications are on hold

The Home Office has confirmed to The PIE News that all in-country Tier 4 student visa applicants using ETS-delivered exams have been notified that their applications are on hold and they have been contacted by the Home Office with details of a helpline.

Advice on practicalities for progressing their visa applications via alternative means will be given to those affected, who are able to remain in the UK.

Eden College International strongly denies any prior knowledge of or complicity in the fraud, according to the BBC report.

According to US-based ETS,  the issues discovered involve two TOEIC testing centers in the UK and does not involve the TOEFL exam.

In a statement, ETS has said that it maintains “one of the most thorough test security protocols in the world and works closely with in-country representatives to monitor all aspects of test delivery.

“When testing on a global basis, no test provider can claim 100% prevention or detection of fraudulent activity, but ETS does everything it can to detect and prevent rare instances of dishonest test administrators or test takers.”

The statement added, “We also work closely with local police and prosecutors to pursue, arrest and convict persons acting illegally.”

The latest TV expose shines the light of compliance on the testing sector, which can rely on education institutions to deliver its exams.

Home Secretary, Theresa May, used the news to rebuke the education sector at large. Speaking on the Radio 4 Today programme, she said, “Over time the education sector has consistently objected to the changes that we’ve made but I think what we see from this is that they need to take some responsibility.

The education sector has got to stop complaining about the changes and look at its own house and put its own house in order.”

Tony Millns, chief executive of English UK, however said the problem lies with the testing body that was not “sufficiently rigorous in its test centre approval process and its monitoring”.

“If there was large-scale fraud it should have had suspicions about a centre with a very high pass rate”

“If there was large-scale fraud it should have had suspicions about a centre with a very high pass rate or very high (100%) test scores by several candidates on the same test.”

The BBC story named a London education agency, Studentway Education, as the agency that told its undercover reporter it could provide a “guaranteed pass” in the TOEIC test that was delivered at Eden College International.

The agency, whose website is littered with spelling errors, including a “Director’s Massage”, is based in Southall. The agency did not respond to our request for comment.

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) told The PIE News that it is opening investigations into the quality of higher education at Eden College International and Leyton College through its Concerns scheme in consultation with the Home Office in light of the programme’s findings.

QAA awarded judgements to the two colleges of ‘confidence’ for quality and the management of standards and ‘reliance’ on information made publicly available in 2012.

Other test providers have not been affected by the suspension. A spokesperson for IELTS told The PIE News: “We will work with the government and other agencies to support the genuine students who may be affected, and offer as many places as possible to those who are required to take another test.”

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14 Responses to ETS exams suspended in UK after TV fraud expose

  1. This college (according to the British Council’s website) is accredited by the British Coucil and is therefore a member of English UK. To prevent damage to the whole of the British UK ELT industry I think it needs to be made clear that this story only concerns ETS-run exams for TOEIC and TOEFL (at present) before all recognised language schools get tarred by the same brush.

  2. Improving efficiency and integrity can be done with thoughtful use of proven technology. The *electronic* transfer of banking data, via FundsV for example, eliminates the need to “eyeball” paper bank statements which can be easily manipulated.

  3. This is only the tip of the iceberg!!! Businesses providing theses and dissertations for Master’s and Doctorate degrees are booming. Students buy their thesis or dissertation from these companies and submit to their universities as their own but universities are pretending that this is not happening in their institution in fear of losing their international student ‘customers’.

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