(Original article available from The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/corruption-leads-to-closure-of-curtins-english-language-test-centre/story-e6frgcjx-1226090928371.)
Curtin University will close its IELTS English language testing centre following a corruption scandal.
A former staff member, Kok Keith Low, pleaded guilty to bribery offences following an anti-corruption inquiry into a 2009-10 trade in falsified IELTS results from the Curtin centre.
Low is to be sentenced on August 9 and the eight others charged, most of them former international students, also have pleaded guilty to bribery offences.
In many cases, the test results were used by international students to secure permanent residency visas. As would-be skilled migrants, they had to show competent English. The price for fake IELTS results was as high as $11,000.
Today, Curtin’s vice-chancellor Jeanette Hacket said the university centre would hold its last IELTS test on August 13.
She said the decision to close followed the WA Corruption and Crime Commission’s inquiry and an internal review, “which found the high-stakes testing would always carry associated risks and responsibilities”.
An internal Curtin document says: “With the need identified recently, as a result of the CCC hearing, to reduce testing numbers in order to provide a quality product with all the safeguards for risk in place, the service has become less financially viable”.
During its March hearings, the CCC was told of systematic weakness and vulnerability in the IELTS system.
IELTS Australia, the company behind the test, said its own system had detected the fraud and more secure systems were on the way.
A Curtin spokeswoman said “every effort” would be made to find jobs for continuing and contract staff from its testing centre.
IELTS Australia said it still would be “well placed” to meet demand for its test in WA.
The link between education and migration has been weakened by immigration policy changes.That link made English language test results especially valuable.
IELTS has a monopoly as the only officially acceptable proof of English competence for sought-after skilled migration visas but that monopoly is under challenge.
The International English Language Testing System is run worldwide by Cambridge University, the British Council and student recruiter IDP. In Australia, IDP owns the IELTS business through the company IELTS Australia.