EEA Nationals and the TOEIC test

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration 3:00 pm, 5th March 2019

I thank the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston for tabling the new clause on behalf of the right hon. Member for East Ham. The new clause relates to the use of certificates to evidence knowledge of English. It raises an important issue, and I would like to explain the Government’s response to widespread abuse of English language testing facilities, which came to light in 2014.

The scale of the fraud—there is no doubt it was a fraud—is illustrated by the fact that so far more than 20 people have received criminal convictions for their role in facilitating the deception, and sentences totalling more than 60 years have been handed down. Further criminal trials are ongoing. There was also a strong link to wider abuse of the student visa route. The majority of individuals linked to the fraud were sponsored by private colleges rather than universities, many of whom the Home Office had significant concerns about well before “Panorama” uncovered the specific fraud. Indeed, 400 colleges who had sponsored students linked to the fraud had already had their licences revoked prior to 2014.

The Educational Testing Service had its licence to provide tests within the UK suspended in early February 2014 and was removed from the immigration rules on 1 July 2014. Approximately 20% of the tests taken in the UK were provided via ETS prior to its suspension.

During 2014, ETS systematically analysed all the TOEIC tests administered in the UK dating back to 2011 and classified them as either questionable or invalid. ETS categorised results as questionable where it had significant concerns about the test centres and sessions where they had been obtained.

We have always recognised that it was possible that a small number of students who took legitimate tests could have received a questionable result. That is why we ensured that those people were given the chance to resit a test or attend an interview before any action was taken against them. ETS categorised results as invalid only where the same voice was matched to two or more tests taken in different names, indicating that deception was likely to have been used.