Nic Dakin – 2015 Parliamentary Question to the Home Office

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Nic Dakin on 2015-11-10.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the effect of the reduction in the number of English language testing centres on the number of international students entering the UK; and if she will make a statement.

James Brokenshire

English language ability is a key strand of the immigration requirements for many of those coming as partners and to work, study and settle in the UK. Significant abuse within the English language testing sector was uncovered in 2013/2014, following which the Home Office commissioned an independent review. A key outcome was the need to develop new and robust business and commercial requirements for Secure English Language Testing (SELT). The Home Office has rightly responded to that abuse robustly, particularly considering that thousands of people sought to use evidence that was obtained fraudulently to enter and remain in the UK. The new, strengthened arrangements for SELT came into effect on 6th April 2015.

One of the security changes introduced was the reduction of the test centre network to mitigate the risks of oversupply and enable the Home Office to achieve greater control and ability to audit centres.

Whilst the Home Office has reduced the number of test centres, it has increased the number of countries where students could sit tests. Before the 6th April students could sit tests in 79 countries (excluding the UK), they can now sit tests in 129 countries.

The Home Office has planned the reduced test centre network to meet anticipated demand and test centres in each country are currently meeting demand.

We continue to have a highly competitive offer for international students who would like to study at our world-class institutions and this is borne out by the figures: visa applications from international students to study at British universities are up by 17 per cent since 2010, whilst visa applications to our world-leading Russell Group institutions are up by 33 per cent since 2010.