It appears that testing is big business. Since 2011 all overseas student visa applicants are required to prove they can speak English at an appropriate level. The responsibility for the testing has been delegated to those colleges and universities that are permitted to act as sponsors for students.
The testing function itself is not something that colleges and universities are set up for, and consequently the job is farmed out to specialist companies, of which there are 5 main providers – one of which, ETS Global Ltd., has been cheating!
There are three web sites reporting the same problem – wholescale falsification of English Language test results for foreign students.
English language tests inquiry declares thousands of results invalid
Of the above three, the Guardian supplies the most detail, and includes a reference to an earlier problem with ETS.
“The Home Office immigration minister, James Brokenshire, announcing the measures in a statement to MPs, said a criminal investigation was under way into ETS Global Ltd, the European subsidiary of a US company, which is one of the biggest providers of English language tests in Britain.”
“Brokenshire said ETS had identified more than 29,000 invalid results and more than 19,000 questionable results at some of their test centres in 2012 and 2013. Brokenshire told MPs that as they have still to analyse results from a number of test centres the final figures will be higher.”
The American firm, ETS, had its five-year contract to handle the national curriculum tests for schools in England and Wales terminated in 2008 after major delays in processing test results.
These two pages give details of the problems involved:-
Sats firm ETS Europe has contract terminated after marking crisis
I would have expected that ETS would have been flagged as an unreliable partner after this incident, or even blacklisted, but apparently no precautions were taken to prevent them accepting further contracts in the UK without special measures being applied.
Once again, it seems that one branch of government does not know what another branch is doing, even though both fall under Education, and evildoers are slipping through the cracks.