British students might soon have the chance to take college exams in their own bedrooms at any time of the day or night -- without being able to cheat.

U.S. firm Software Secure has developed a program which is designed to make sure students stay honest while taking the exam by keeping them under surveillance and cutting off any access to cribbing material.

The software first locks down the use of all files and the Internet, other than those specifically needed for the exam. It then asks for a fingerprint test to ensure the candidate is the correct person and uses audio and video recording to ensure that the student is under exam conditions during the whole period.

The firm says on its website that it "brings the exam room into the computer age, making exam time less stressful for students, faculty and administrators."

At least one college in Britain, the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, is experimenting with the system and others may follow suit. Several universities in the United States already have the system in place. The National Union of Students gave the idea a cautious welcome.

"It would be one solution to problems faced by those who might have difficulty reaching a university campus for exams," said a spokesman.

"However it must not be used as an excuse to further cut costs or corners by reducing the amount of contact time students have with staff."

The company says it was designed for students with full-time jobs, or who have children and don't have the flexibility to find an exam supervisor.