Hadi Law

Wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, loss of earnings, and mental health damage – these are basis for some of the claims made by international students who have been caught up in the English language test scandal. Inspired by the reaction to the ITV drama, Mr Bates vs The Post Office, some students told the Evening Standard that they hoped to pitch a TV script in order to clear their names after being falsely accused of cheating on their English language tests.  

What is the English Language Test Scandal?

To successfully apply for a Tier 4 Student Visa, applicants must sit an English language test unless they are from a country that is exempt (for example Australia or Canada). In 2014, a BBC Panorama documentary revealed that many students had cheated on their English language test by paying money to the test centres to have imposters sit their exam, the test answers provided, or deliver some other method of ensuring they passed the exam.   At the time the scandal was revealed, the Home Office website gave prospective international students details of four approved test providers where they could sit a test to prove they had a high enough level of English to be able to study in the UK. Cheating was exposed in two centres run by a UK subsidiary of the US-based company Educational Testing Service (ETS). Following the airing of the documentary, ETS reviewed its records and discovered that of approximately 58,000 people who sat the Test of English for International Communication (Toeic) between 2011 and 2014, 58% had used deception. These students’ visas were immediately cancelled. Another 39% of tests were questionable, and those students were later asked to resit the test. ETS said only 2,200 students who took its tests during that period had definitely not cheated.   The Home Secretary at the time was the Right Honourable Theresa May MP (also known as Lady May) who went on to become the British Prime Minister. Ms May had introduced what became known as a’ hostile environment’ for migrants who were in the country illegally. She was also committed to then Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge to bring net immigration down to the “tens of thousands”, (a goal that has never come close to being reached).   It is unreasonable to suspect that the revelation of cheating by students taking the compulsory English language test gave the Home Office an opportunity to show they were taking control of immigration.  

What was the Result of the English Language Test Cheating Revelation?

Following the allegations, the Home Office revoked the visas of 35,000 students. Most were asked to leave their courses, meaning they lost thousands of pounds in fees, and 2,500 were removed from the UK. A further 7,200 students fled the country as they were told they could be arrested and detained if they remained.   The Government also introduced stricter monitoring and oversight of test centres, as well as tougher penalties for fraud.   Did 35,000 students cheat on their English language test? For the following reasons, it is highly implausible that so many students cheated:
  1. Many were educated in English-speaking schools and therefore had no motive to pay someone to ensure they passed a relatively basic language test.
  2. More than 3,600 students accused of cheating have succeeded in immigration appeals, and although there is no record to states whether those appeals were won specifically on the grounds that cheating allegations were false, it is safe to assume at least some of them were.
  3. Immigration Law Solicitors acting for accused students have all argued that the evidence of cheating provided by ETS is unreliable. At first, the company provided no evidence to back up its figures. Later, it did hand over recordings used by students sitting the oral part of the examination. The voices in the recordings hardly ever matched up with the accused student.

What can I do if I am Innocent of Cheating on my English Language Test and being told to Leave the UK?

The first thing you must do is contact an experienced Immigration Law Solicitor. They will carefully examine your situation and advise you on appealing your case to the Immigration Tribunal as well as claiming compensation. It is understandable that you may find this difficult to do after everything you have been through; however, it is vital that you have your name cleared to ensure you can complete your UK studies and move on with your life. An Immigration Law Solicitor will ensure you have a robust appeal and your best interests are protected throughout the entire length of your case.   For further information on any personal or business immigration matter, please speak to our immigration law team on 01772 447000 or reach out to us on our seven-day-a-week WhatsApp helpline on 07869760533.

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