Language test providers announced after scandal

Only two awarding bodies accrediting Secure English Language Tests, used to assess overseas students’ language capability, will be approved by the UK government from April.

February 25, 2015

Following a review by the Home Office, which was undertaken after significant abuse involving English language tests was uncovered last year, only Trinity College London, which will offer testing in the UK, and Cambridge English Language Assessment, which will carry out tests both in the UK and overseas, have had tests approved.

The former will offer “Graded Examination in Spoken English” and “Integrated Skills in English” tests, while the latter accredits the International English Language Testing System exams, which are jointly owned by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge English Language Assessment.

The other two providers currently accredited – Pearson and City & Guilds – will continue to be approved until 5 April, but not beyond, after deciding not to proceed. Cambridge International Exams was a provider until last year. Meanwhile Educational Testing Service lost its SELT status in February over allegations of organised cheating by some students.

A spokeswoman for City & Guilds said that the organisation had decided against applying for accreditation because “some of the requirements outlined in the new tender are specifically designed to assist the work of the Home Office around managing immigration to the UK”.

These requirements included a need for testing centres in countries that City & Guilds felt “did not fit with its international strategy” and additional investment in IT systems.

“The scope of the requirements is extensive, and additional resources would be needed to meet these requirements,” the spokeswoman said. “Therefore the new arrangements do not align to our overall strategy and our core focus.”

She added that as a not-for-profit organisation “dedicated to skills development, City & Guilds has a responsibility to ensure that its resources are invested in the right areas”.

A spokeswoman for Pearson said there were “a small number of conditions” with which the company was unable to agree, meaning the Home Office did not assess its application. She added that the company was “disappointed” that it would no longer be offering accredited testing.

Candidates who have sat and passed an examination with City & Guilds or Pearson up to and including 5 April can use their certificates to support UK visa applications until 5 November 2015.

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