Pearson has won a contract with the UK Home Office to deliver secure English language tests (SELTs) to people who need to demonstrate their English language skills to work or live in the UK.
Under the commercial agreements, running for a minimum of three years, Pearson will deliver SELTs both for those already in the UK and for those in the rest of the world. They will be delivered through the Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic and PTE Home—a new speaking and listening test for family visa, settlement and citizenship applicants. Both of these English language tests have been developed internally by Pearson.
It is a significant contract for Pearson. When it won a similar contract with the Australian Home Office in 2014, it grew revenue from £14m in 2015 to £77m in 2018 in the Pearson Test of English, largely driven by the Australian contract.
Pearson’s English business is 7% of Pearson’s total global revenue, with revenue growth of 7% in the past year. The Pearson Test of English Academic is one of the fastest growing parts of the company, according to Pearson, citing 30% test volume growth last year.
The digital test is delivered through Pearson VUE, the computer-based testing business of Pearson. It uses AI technology for scoring, biometric data collection for security, and voice recognition software for the speaking element of the test. It can be booked online up to 24 hours in advance with results returning within 1.2 days on average (the statistical average for 2019).
Currently the test is accepted by the Australian and New Zealand governments for all visa applications, as well as by all Australian, New Zealand and Irish Universities, 98% of UK universities, and more than 2,000 academic programmes in the US.
Rod Bristow, president of Pearson UK, said: “We are proud that the UK government joins the Australian and New Zealand governments in recognising this test for visa applications, alongside thousands of leading universities across the globe who already accept it for study purposes—including most UK universities.
“Alongside this, our new English language test PTE Home has also been accepted by the UK government for those who need to prove their speaking and listening skills when applying for family visas, for instance.”
PTE Academic is a four skills language test accepted for work (and certain study) visas that Pearson will start delivering in early 2020 as one of four approved suppliers of SELTs. PTE Academic has more than 250 test centres in over 50 countries, with its test centre network and global coverage due to expand to more than 110 countries during the early stages of the commercial agreements.