A report by the watchdog says that the Home Office had cancelled international students’ visas without properly checking whether they had actually cheated, meaning that some people may have been wrongly accused and in some cases, unfairly removed from the UK. Times Higher Education reports.
The Home Office action was launched in 2014, after a BBC Panorama investigation exposed widespread fraud at English language test centres conducting exams for the Education Testing Service (ETS). Reporters found students at certain testing centres had paid others to take their spoken and written exams, and an invigilator had read out the answers to multiple-choice questions.
Since the scandal, 2,468 people have been forced to leave and 391 were refused re-entry to the UK, the NAO says. In total, at least 11,356 people who took the language tests have left the country.
So far, 31 defendants from six organised crime groups have stood trial and 25 have been convicted. Twenty-one have received prison sentences totalling 70 years, and four more await sentencing.
To work out the scale of the fraud, ETS had used voice recognition software to determine which tests had been cheated on, marking them as invalid, questionable or cleared of suspicion.
However, according to the NAO report, “for two years the department revoked the visas of anyone with an invalid test, without expert assurance of the validity of voice recognition evidence”.
Many students have appealed against the decisions to revoke their visas. By March 2019, 12,500 appeals had been heard and 3,700 had been won. However, the Home Office has not tracked the reasons why.
Meg Hillier, the chair of the Public Accounts Committee said “The Home Office made no effort to identify innocent people, and may have removed some from the UK who were not guilty of cheating,” the MP said. “The Home Office must take urgent steps to check whether its response to cheating has been fair and proportionate for all those involved.”
Read the full article UK ‘failed to protect’ innocent students in cheating scandal
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