Cambridge leads Westminster discussion on student immigration

25 January 2010

In the run up to the Government’s much anticipated review of student immigration to the UK, Cambridge English Language Assessment - which is part of the Cambridge Assessment Group - brought together key experts from the education industry and the UK Border Agency to discuss the issues around assessing the English language levels of students coming to study in the UK. 

At the end of last year the Prime Minister ordered a review of Tier 4 - the system that controls the flow of students coming to study in the UK -making this event particularly timely for the 150 delegates from language schools, media and education providers. The forum held in Westminster was themed: "Language at the Border: Assessing Language Ability for Study in the UK” and it gave delegates the opportunity to discuss the issue with Suzanne Barnes, Policy Lead for Tier 4 at the UK Border Agency, whose team recently submitted their proposals in response to the Prime Minister's request last November.

Dr Michael Milanovic, Chief Executive of Cambridge English Language Assessment who opened the event explained the importance of this discussion forum: "When it comes to language testing for student immigration, we must ensure fairness, security and fitness for purpose so that we are respecting the human rights of the individuals going through our immigration process and acting in the best interests of the UK”.

Juliet Wilson, Assistant Director for Customer Services at Cambridge English Language Assessment outlined the importance of a rigorous and secure testing system when assessing language for immigration purposes. She explained Cambridge's stringent approach to quality assurance and security and how their new online verification service will include a test day photo of the candidate.

Dr Nick Saville who heads up Cambridge English's Research and Validation function explained the kind of factors that government's need to consider when choosing language tests for this purpose - he stressed how seeking professional guidance helps to ensure language assessment for immigration is fair and appropriate.

Other speakers included Tony Millns from English UK and Anne Arnott from the Canadian High Commission who outlined her country's approach to attracting foreign students and Canada's immigration strategy. Michael Carrier from the British Council also briefed delegates on how the English language has helped the UK build closer cultural and economic ties with the rest of the world with examples of notable former students who were educated in this country. Cambridge English Language Assessment was particularly grateful to Suzanne Barnes' presentation on "Tier 4 and English Language Assessment” and her contribution to the panel discussion.