Dozens of British universities and private colleges have been banned from sponsoring international students following a wide-ranging investigation by the Home Office.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire told the House of Commons that the ‘Highly-Trusted’ status of some 60 educational institutions – all privately-owned – have been revoked after investigators found an “organized criminal network” falsifying English language tests for student visa applicants.
Among the most high-profile universities to have its license to sponsor new international students suspended is Glyndwr University in Wales which awards degrees through the London School of Business and Finance, as well as the University of West London and Bedfordshire University.
It is unclear whether the suspensions will affect existing international students at the universities.
The Home Office investigation was launched following an undercover operation by the BBC’s Panorama program which found that English language certificates were being fraudulently obtained by scores of international students.
The operation discovered students with little or no proficiency in English were routinely paying for criminal agents to sit for the exams conducted by ETS Global.
The certificates are required to apply for new visas or extend existing ones.
Since the Panorama revelations, students at more than 400 universities and colleges were found to have obtained invalid ETS certificates, Mr Brokenshire said.
The minister also told the house that as soon as the allegations of the cheating system first surfaced, they suspended the ETS testing system in UK and put a hold on all immigration applications from those in the UK using ETS certificates while mandating all overseas students be interviewed face-to-face by the UK Visas and Immigration staff.
Brokenshire also stated that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Department is also looking into students who are earning far more than they potentially could given the restrictions on the number of weekly hours they are allowed to work.