Stephen has responded to the National Audit Office’s report following its investigation into the Home Office’s response to cheating by international students in English language tests.
An investigation by the BBC’s Panorama programme revealed that some test centres were allowing students to cheat in order that they passed their English language test. The then Home Secretary, Theresa May, reacted by revoking or curtailing thousands of students' visas.
The NAO’s report acknowledges that many innocent students were caught up in the scandal. They have been left for years with no resolution to their case. They have been stripped of the right to study, to work, to find accommodation and to access banking and NHS services.
Speaking about the report, Stephen said: “The National Audit Office has confirmed – as many have been pointing out for years now – that “those affected might have been branded as cheats, lost their course fees, and been removed from the UK without being guilty of cheating”. And, on top of the NAO’s analysis, there is real doubt if a recording held by ETS is really the one for that applicant. Thousands have been unfairly penalised, with catastrophic consequences for many.
“The Home Secretary has promised an oral statement to Parliament about this scandal. He must now give those affected, who remain in the UK, a chance to clear their names – for example, by offering them a fresh English test.”
Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, added: “When the Home Office acted vigorously to exclude individuals and shut down colleges involved in the English language test cheating scandal, we think they should have taken an equally vigorous approach to protecting those who did not cheat but who were still caught up in the process, however small a proportion they might be. This did not happen. ”