By Matthew Knott, News Editor of Study Travel Magazine


We are all aware of the impact that government policy can have on the international education sector, which necessarily involves the movement of people and therefore immigration policy.

Virtually every month in our regular market analysis features on the major language study destinations, contributing schools are quick to lament the direction of policy and its unhelpful impact.

But few schools will suffer the direct damage of a suspension of license, only to then be fully exonerated and told that the Home Office apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused, as has recently happened to one UK school - see today’s news story.

The school in question was suspended, its Managing Director says, merely because it was a Toeic test centre. The UK Home Office has been investigating cases of fraud in Toeic testing after a BBC documentary uncovered instances at two entirely unrelated test centres. The Home Office never produced any accusations or evidence against the school, which has been fully cleared and reinstated.

It is, quite frankly, a staggering display of insensitivity by the Home Office to have suspended and publicly named the school before even looking into whether it had done anything wrong. Would this happen in any other industry? Would they suspend every off license in the country because one shop in London had sold alcohol to children?

That is not to say that thorough investigations shouldn’t take place. ETS, the administrators of the Toeic test, have themselves said that thousands of UK-issued scores are invalid, and indeed this week some 15 colleges have had their licenses revoked – clearly there were issues that needed to be thoroughly probed. But the Home Office needs to have firm reasons before suspending an institution and damaging its reputation.

Alas because immigration is a hot political topic in the run up to next year’s general election, or at least it is deemed to be by the government – election opinion polls in the UK regularly rank immigration well down the list of voter priorities, the education industry will be fearful that this might not be the last of such damaging outbursts.

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