British lawmakers have asked for an independent probe into the unreasonable way international students were treated after a cheating scandal, relating to an English language exam, surfaced in 2014. Most of the accused students were from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, who had to bear the unjustified action of being deported or left in the middle.
Starting the debate on “Britain’s forgotten immigration scandal” Labor MP Wes Streeting said in Westminster Hall that this scandal “has seen thousands of international students wrongly deported and tens of thousands more left in limbo.” He claimed that every accused was treated as a convict of cheating, which was a sheer contradiction to the law of justice.
“Their lives have been plunged into chaos by a Government who have effectively branded them all cheats, defied the principles of natural justice, and created a hostile environment for international students,” he added.
BBC’s “Panorama” in its program in Feb. 2014, had shown the evidence of widespread cheating at the testing centers of Test of English for international communication (TOEIC). BBC discovered malpractices at test centers such as invigilators reading the correct answers to students and proxies sitting in the exam.
After the fraud surfaced, thousands of students were accused of cheating in exams and were either sent back to their countries or left in the middle. Many of them had to leave their studies and many others left the country on their own seeing no hope.
The MPs also highlighted the point that these students were not given the right to appeal in the United Kingdom against the action they were subjected to.
Labor MP Seema Malhotra termed this treatment of students very depressing and humiliating and demanded an apology from the government. She said that it was an “incredible social injustice that happened under this Government’s watch.”
Underlining the loss of reputation that the families of these students had to undergo, besides causing depression, she asked for “an extensive apology and potential compensation” She also pitched for an investigation into the matter.
It was mentioned in Streeting’s speech that Educational Testing Service, which was conducting the exam on the behalf of the Home Office for non-EEA students as part of the tier 4 visa process, had claimed that 33,725 people who took the test used a proxy and were treated as invalid while 22,694 instances of fraud were detected and were marked as questionable.
Examinees of questionable results were given a chance to either rewrite the exam or face an interview before any action could be taken and students with invalid results were made to leave the courses midway. Many of them were made to leave the country.
British Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes acknowledged that “innocent applicants may well have been caught up in widespread fraud” but it is important to recognize that there was significant, widespread and indeed very lucrative fraud taking place in these cases.
Dismissing the idea of an independent probe in the matter, she added in her concluding statements, “I am very clear that we have acted proportionately.”
The MPs have spoken at a time when UUK, an umbrella body of Universities in the United Kingdom, has pitched for new post-study work visas for international students citing economical, academic and cultural benefits for the country.