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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019

'Time is fast running out for rogue operators': Crackdown on English language colleges

“Retaining the status quo is simply not an option,” Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said.

English teacher Nadia O'Brien outside Leinster College last October.
English teacher Nadia O'Brien outside Leinster College last October.
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Updated 5.47pm

A SERIES OF new measures have been announced to crack down on English-language schools operating in Ireland – following a raft of closures recently.

The reforms were confirmed this morning by Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

The reforms include:

  • Requirements for schools to give a clear declaration of ownership – including shadow directors, physical infrastructure and teaching capacity.
  • New ‘compulsory learner protection’ measures.
  • Requirements for a separate account facility to safeguard student advance payments.

“Ireland’s international education sector is founded on the quality of Irish higher education and our strong track record in delivering quality-assured English language programmes to overseas students,” Minister O’Sullivan said.

“That sector must be driven by quality in the areas of programme delivery, student experience and governance.

This can only happen when that part of the sector that has manifestly failed to perform in this manner has ceased or fundamentally reformed its practice.

Minister Fitzgerald said it was clear that there have been businesses operating in the sector “who were solely interested in facilitating immigration and not in providing quality education”.

Regrettably, we have seen a number of sudden college closures resulting in students losing their courses and the monies they’ve paid, as well as teachers and staff going unpaid. We have also seen blatant abuses of our immigration system.

“Retaining the status quo is simply not an option.

“We are working to ensure that ‘visa factories’ and the people who run them have no place in Irish education.”

The Irish Council for International Students has welcomed the tighter regulation.

“International students need to feel absolutely confident their money will be kept secure from the moment it’s paid and this must be the ultimate goal of further reform,” director Sheila Power said in a statement.

“Time is fast running out for rogue operators but it will be important that everything possible is done to keep students safe until reforms are fully in place.”

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