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Why Have Indian Students Urged Rishi Sunak To Act on English Test Scandal?

In 2014, a BBC Panorama report alleged cheating had occurred in a compulsory language test at two centres.

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A group of international students, including Indians, has urged UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to act against the "unjust revocation" of their visas following an English test scandal.

The students' visas were revoked almost a decade ago after a BBC Panorama documentary alleged cheating during a compulsory language test, required for visas, at two of London's test centres.

What other measures did the UK government take after the airing of the documentary? And what other allegations were levelled? Read on.

Why Have Indian Students Urged Rishi Sunak To Act on English Test Scandal?

  1. 1. What Actually Happened?

    In 2014, BBC Panorama aired a documentary focusing on an English language test (known as Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC)) that was held at two test centres in London.

    As part of the documentary, non-EU students, who were already in the UK legally, were sent undercover. They posed as bogus students with poor English, who wanted to remain in the UK to work illegally.

    One went undercover at an immigration consultancy called Studentway Education in Southall. The BBC was allegedly told that Studentway could get around mandatory English tests, even if applicants spoke no English.

    BBC Panorama researchers were also reportedly sold fake bank details to show they had enough funds to stay in the UK, among other things.

    The UK government later asked Educational Testing Service (ETS), the company that organised the test at 96 test centres, to probe allegations of cheating in the test.

    How Did the UK Govt React to the Allegations?

    As a result of the probe by ETS, the UK government revoked the visas of more than 34,000 overseas students, many of whom are reportedly Indian, making their presence in the UK illegal overnight.

    A further 22,000 were told that their test results were “questionable”, according to a report by The Guardian. Students were kicked out of their universities, and with no right to stay, work and in a few cases to appeal, many of them had no option but to return home.

    Those who stayed behind to clear their names as a result of the scandal have allegedly struggled with problems like stress-induced illnesses, homelessness, huge legal fees, and have missed family weddings, births, and deaths.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Are the Allegations Against UK's Home Office?

    In 2019, a report by the Public Accounts Committee found that the Home Office "rushed to penalise the international students accused of cheating in English language tests."

    The report noted that the Home Office did so without establishing if the ETS was involved in the fraud or if it had evidence of cheating.

    Last year as well, the Home Office was accused of presiding over a “shocking miscarriage of justice” by MPs during a debate on the TOEIC scam which saw thousands of international students being wrongly accused of cheating.

    Expand
  3. 3. What Do the Students Want Sunak To Do Now?

    The students now want Sunak to help them by providing a way for them to clear their names. On Tuesday afternoon, 21 March, they presented a petition to Downing Street.

    According to Migrant Voice, an organisation that is supporting the students, they want Sunak to "devise a straightforward way for them to prove themselves innocent, so they can go on with their lives and, nine years later, finally get their future back."

    The Guardian quoted Nazek Ramadan, director of Migrant Voice, as saying: “This is one of the biggest scandals in contemporary British history. The initial government reaction was unjust and has been allowed to drag on for years."

    She said that the whole issue could have been solved by a simple solution, such as a re-test, and added that the students who came to the UK to "get a world-class education and the best student experience in the world" have had their lives wrecked.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Actually Happened?

In 2014, BBC Panorama aired a documentary focusing on an English language test (known as Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC)) that was held at two test centres in London.

As part of the documentary, non-EU students, who were already in the UK legally, were sent undercover. They posed as bogus students with poor English, who wanted to remain in the UK to work illegally.

One went undercover at an immigration consultancy called Studentway Education in Southall. The BBC was allegedly told that Studentway could get around mandatory English tests, even if applicants spoke no English.

BBC Panorama researchers were also reportedly sold fake bank details to show they had enough funds to stay in the UK, among other things.

The UK government later asked Educational Testing Service (ETS), the company that organised the test at 96 test centres, to probe allegations of cheating in the test.

How Did the UK Govt React to the Allegations?

As a result of the probe by ETS, the UK government revoked the visas of more than 34,000 overseas students, many of whom are reportedly Indian, making their presence in the UK illegal overnight.

A further 22,000 were told that their test results were “questionable”, according to a report by The Guardian. Students were kicked out of their universities, and with no right to stay, work and in a few cases to appeal, many of them had no option but to return home.

Those who stayed behind to clear their names as a result of the scandal have allegedly struggled with problems like stress-induced illnesses, homelessness, huge legal fees, and have missed family weddings, births, and deaths.

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What Are the Allegations Against UK's Home Office?

In 2019, a report by the Public Accounts Committee found that the Home Office "rushed to penalise the international students accused of cheating in English language tests."

The report noted that the Home Office did so without establishing if the ETS was involved in the fraud or if it had evidence of cheating.

Last year as well, the Home Office was accused of presiding over a “shocking miscarriage of justice” by MPs during a debate on the TOEIC scam which saw thousands of international students being wrongly accused of cheating.

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What Do the Students Want Sunak To Do Now?

The students now want Sunak to help them by providing a way for them to clear their names. On Tuesday afternoon, 21 March, they presented a petition to Downing Street.

According to Migrant Voice, an organisation that is supporting the students, they want Sunak to "devise a straightforward way for them to prove themselves innocent, so they can go on with their lives and, nine years later, finally get their future back."

The Guardian quoted Nazek Ramadan, director of Migrant Voice, as saying: “This is one of the biggest scandals in contemporary British history. The initial government reaction was unjust and has been allowed to drag on for years."

She said that the whole issue could have been solved by a simple solution, such as a re-test, and added that the students who came to the UK to "get a world-class education and the best student experience in the world" have had their lives wrecked.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Indian Students   Rishi Sunak 

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