Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

#FakeSitter: BBC investigation finds agents rigging English language tests for non-EU students

The government has suspended English language tests conducted by a major firm after a BBC investigation found the exams were rigged.

A year-long undercover operation by the BBC's Panorama program uncovered a network of agents who helped students pass exams conducted by the English Testing Service (ETS) through fraudulent means.

One reporter posed as a student at an "immigration consultancy" in Southall where she was told that the company could help her obtain compulsory English language qualifications "even if she couldn't speak English".

Varinder Bajarh, director at Studentway, was filmed saying: "Someone else will sit the exam for you.

But you will have to have your photo taken there to prove you were present."

The reporter was told a "guaranteed pass" would cost £500 - four times the normal fee for the exam which is required for foreign students applying for in-country visa extensions.

A "fake sitter" employed by Studentway then took the exam in place of the real applicant at government-approved centre in East London. 

In another instance the answers to a series of multiple-choice questions were provided by an invigilator recruited by Studentway at the testing centre. 

Panorama researchers were also sold fake bank details to show they had enough funds to stay in the UK, one of the key requirements for students applying for extensions.

One of the agents at Studentway, Vinod Kumar, told the researcher that the agency would use its contacts in India to find "someone else with the same name, whose account and money will be used for you. So when there is need for verification it's verified for you till you get your visa".

Two weeks later the researcher received a bank statement from Studentway that made it appear she had tens of thousands of pounds.

Studentway has vehemently denied that anyone named Vinod Kumar worked for the company although both director Bajarh and Mr Kumar are seen in the film, according to the BBC.

Studentway Education describes itself as a "reputed and esteemed" consultancy firm and provides advice to students from its offices in London and the Punjab.

The company claims offers advice to prospective students looking to study in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

There is suggestion of collusion between Studentway and the English Testing Service which claims to be "the world's largest non-profit educational measurement organization" and develops and conducts a variety of exams on behalf of the Home Office.

A company representative told the BBC that it had "done everything to prevent cheating".



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