An expose by the BBC investigative news program Panorama has not only shamed the US-based Educational Testing Service (ETS) but also has caused many to call for tighter immigration controls in the UK. The investigative report, which came to light in early February, shows test center employees at two locations in the UK offering undercover reporters a “guaranteed pass fee” of £500. As a result the UK Border Agency has suspended the test in question – the Test of English for International Communication, better know as the TOEIC – as well as another ETS exam – the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
What This Means For You:
As a result, the UK Border Agency has suspended all Tier 4 student visa applicants that are currently in process and used an UK-based, ETS-delivered exam to demonstrate their English proficiency. Applicants already in the country will be permitted to stay pending a larger investigation and those affected will be notified by the department and provide with additional details. While such scandals occasionally occur in other countries, in an unusual turn of events the Border Agency announced that international students who took the exams outside Britain would not be affected.
Because of these events – and pending an end to the moratorium- many counselors are advising that would-be international students take other approved English proficiency exams (such as the IELTS) in lieu of the more well-known ETS exams. For a complete list of approved exams, check the UK Border Agency’s official list here.
The Effect Beyond Students
The affair, meanwhile, has affected more than students. Border Agency officials are facing demands to put stricter controls not only on testing facilities but on student visas in general. Theresa May, the UK home secretary who was already an advocate of tighter restrictions, has already stopped some 700 colleges from bringing students into the country and now suggests that a greater emphasis on face-to-face interviews may be in the works in order to combat fraud. This ETS scandal may lead to wider reforms in the UK, after all.