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Comments by Sanwar Ali:
Obviously, we wish the best of luck to these new English language test centres. However, with all the economic uncertainty and restrictions due to coronavirus COVID-19 it remains to be seen how successful they will be in practice. There may continue to be a downturn in UK visa applications from abroad, with more Tier 4 visa international students deciding to study in their home Country and lower demand from Tier 2 visa applicants.
It would be good to have some healthy competition. In the past there have been problems with some people taking the wrong test for their UK visa application. Perhaps UK Visas and Immigration could make it easier for people. Perhaps have direct links to relevant English language tests.
In the UK new restrictions have been announced due to the increase in the rate of coronavirus COVID-19 infections. One new restriction is that pubs and restaurants and other hospitality venues will have to close at 10pm from tomorrow in England. There are rumours that there will be tougher restrictions in London following remarks by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. A former Mayor of London and now British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new COVID-19 measures yesterday. This will put off overseas students and others coming to the UK.
Pearson has announced 32 new English Language Test centre locations around the world for UK Visas and Immigration purposes. Four new centres have been confirmed in the UK in Cambridge, Cardiff, Leeds and Wolverhampton, with other test centres opened in international locations.
In June, Pearson announced 72 locations worldwide as part of its second phase. In the latest phase, three UK Visas and Immigration ELT centres overseen by Pearson have been announced in China in Chongqing, Shenyang and XiAn. Other locations include Venezuelan capital, Caracas and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
Freya Thomas Monk, the senior vice president of English Assessment at Pearson, said: “The company continues to see high demand from test-takers who want to book and deliver PTE.”
Fourth phase of English language testing locations
Pearson is now in its fourth phase of PTE locations, with Thomas Monk saying: “This latest announcement brings our worldwide total of UK Visas and Immigration approved locations to almost 150.”
“This will help meet customer demand and give people an increasingly wider choice of test location as they look to move to the UK to work, study or live,” Thomas Monk added.
Most of the new locations are now open to deliver ELTs, with more planning to open once local COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Pearson’s network of test centres does have COVID-safe measures in place, with hand sanitisers, increased sanitation of high-touch points and disinfection of workstations to ensure the safety of its staff and test candidates.
Since Pearson was given approval to offer ELTs for UK Visas and Immigration purposes by the government in May, the test provider has since opened 147 centres in locations around the world.
Pearson’s services include the PTE academic test for Tier 2 work visas and Tier 4 study visas, plus the two-skills PTE Home test for UK family visas, settlement and citizenship applications.
Previous ELT scandal
In recent years English Language Testing has been shrouded in scandal. In a 2014 BBC Panorama documentary, thousands of international students were accused of cheating on ELTs, prompting then Home Secretary, Theresa May, to revoke tens of thousands of student visas.
However, the treatment of international students by the Home Office amid the allegations of cheating has been heavily criticised. Senior Home Office civil servants were accused of ‘not being bothered’ by how more than 30,000 people were treated.
The allegations of cheating were investigated by both the National Audit Office (NAO) and the Commons Public Accounts Committee, which found that fraud had occurred, but each said that it was no excuse for the way people were treated.
At the time of the investigations, around 25 people had been convicted of organised fraud, while many accused have spent tens of thousands of pounds fighting to clear their name. In 2019, 12,500 appeals had been heard, but less than half (3,600) won their cases.
The Home Office was blasted for having a very slack language testing system and having ‘no regard for the effect the agency’s actions had on innocent people.’
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