Home Office probes University of Bedfordshire as part of student visa abuse investigation

The university is co-operating with UK Visas and Immigration
The university is co-operating with UK Visas and Immigration

The University of Bedfordshire has been prevented from sponsoring new foreign students as investigations into the abuse of visas deepens.

Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Immigration Minister James Brokenshire confirmed that the Home Office has investigated the European subsidiary of Educational Testing Services– a firm which holds language tests for student visas.

Earlier this year BBC’s Panorama revealed systematic cheating at ETS’ UK test centres– with invigilators seen to be supplying, even reading out, answers to whole exam rooms and gangs of impostors being allowed to step into the exam candidates places to sit the test.

During wider investigations into colleges and universities cause for “serious concern” was found and the Home Office suspended the the highly-trusted sponsor status– the right to sponsor foreign students– of Glyndwr University in Wales.

The University of Bedfordshire and University of West London have been told that they are no longer allowed to sponsor new students, pending further investigations which will decide whether they too should be suspended.

A UoB spokesperson said: “We have audited all current students who have progressed to us from ETS for attendance, location of residence, academic progression, and English language capability, as well as undertaking other tests for reassurance as to the credibility of these students.

“This audit enabled us to reassure UKVI last Friday that our on-going monitoring and targeted review did not provide evidence of any organised attack on the University’s Tier 4 compliance and recruitment.

“I am confident we will, through that process, demonstrate the robustness of our procedures.”

Luton South MP Gavin Shuker issue his support for the university.

He told Luton News: “Having spoken to the Vice Chancellor about this only a few days ago, I know that the university have been working closely with the Home Office to resolve this over recent weeks.

“While other universities have been suspended from sponsoring new international students, our university has only been requested to pause the issuing of acceptance letters while a routine external audit is carried out.

“I have every confidence that the University of Bedfordshire will be fully cleared in coming weeks.”