Students caught up in visa row find support of MPs


TENS of thousands of overseas students who had their visas revoked after the Home Office accused them of cheating on compulsory English tests on Thursday (18) won the backing og a cross-party group of MPs who said the evidence used against them were “confused, misleading, incomplete and unsafe.”

Almost 34,000 students were accused of cheating in English language tests in 2015 after an investigation by the BBC’s Panorama exposed cheating at some colleges where candidates sat for the Test of English for International Communication (Toeic).

An All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Toeic was set up to look into claims of wrongful accusations of cheating, and the group released its report this week. It calls for accused students to be given a chance to clear their names.

The report also states that Home Office officials themselves had said they were unsure whether the evidence against the students was strong enough to stand up in court.

Stephen Timms MP, chair of the APPG on Toeic, said: “One thing that struck me throughout our hearings was that evidence from ETS – the basis for denying visas to thousands of overseas students, often with catastrophic effects – quite simply could not be relied upon.

“Some students have – at great cost – managed to clear their names. However, universities still see them as a risk due to the nature of the allegations made against them. As things stand, and without help from the government, their futures remain bleak. This report sets out crucial steps we believe the government must now take.”

Responding to the report, a Home Office spokesperson said it does not reflect the findings of the courts, who have consistently found that the evidence of fraud was enough to take action.

The spokesperson added: “As the National Audit Office recently highlighted, the Tier 4 system was subject to widespread abuse in 2014 and almost all those involved in the cheating were linked to private colleges which the Home Office already had significant concerns about.

“The National Audit office was also clear on the scale and organised nature of the abuse, which is demonstrated by the fact that 25 people who facilitated this fraud have received criminal convictions.”