LONDON: An influential British parliamentary committee has announced a more detailed inquiry into the treatment of international students, majority of them Indian, who were accused of cheating on English language tests and deported from the UK.
The House of Commons’ home affairs select committee, chaired by Indian-origin Labour MP Keith Vaz , had launched the inquiry into the UK home office response to the cheating scandal back in April.
In its report released on Friday, the committee concluded that the issue requires a more fuller inquiry into the scandal, which involved hundreds of dawn raids by UK Border Agency officers and resulted in the deportation of around 48,000 international students, nearly 70 per cent of whom were Indian, during the course of 2014.
“We are deeply concerned with the arrests, dawn raids and aggressive deportations of students from outside the European Union (EU), which have occurred following allegations of fraud at English language testing centres,” Vaz said in a statement today.
He further said: “The home office appears not to have investigated English language testing fraud allegations themselves before undertaking heavy-handed action. Recent legal cases, with their damming criticisms from senior judges, have opened the door to a mass of expensive and damaging litigation”.
“An estimated 70 per cent of those affected are of Indian nationality, and this debacle comes at a time when Indian student numbers in the UK are declining. The UK risks causing extensive damage to its reputation as a leading destination for international study.”
The initial inquiry was set up following the UK’s upper tribunal (immigration and asylum chamber) ruling allowing a test appeal by two of the students accused of cheating in their mandatory English test conducted by a subsidiary of US-based ETS.
The cheating scam was uncovered by a “BBC Panorama” investigation in February 2014. It found that immigration consultancies and international education agencies were charging fees to help international students with poor English get around tests required for student visas and visa extensions.
An ensuing investigation by the home office claimed widespread problems with the test system, leading to revocation of licenses of nearly 100 institutions and triggering the removal of students who had been tested there.
The latest home affairs select committee inquiry report concludes: “We want to be satisfied that the home office’s actions are proportionate and just. The committee has decided, given the number of outstanding issues relating to English language testing, to undertake a full inquiry into this matter.