Coalition introduces tighter language school controls to protect students

Tighter controls over English language schools including insurance schemes to refund foreign students’ fees and higher standards of teaching have been agreed by the Coalition.

The measures come in the wake of scandals in the language school sector where institutions have been accused by the Department of Justice of running “visa factories”.

Over a dozen English language schools have closed in the past year following a clampdown.

But in many cases students have been left without their fees being refunded, without courses and without any way of following up complaints.

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The Cabinet has agreed new rules, to be outlined further tomorrow, which will see a clampdown.

The reform package will address school closures and how to protect students where there is a failure to return their funds.

All institutions will have to comply with new transparency requirements including a clear declaration of ownership, shadow directors and the institution’s teaching capacity.A learner protection scheme will also be put in place.

Furthermore, some education programmes for student immigration purposes will be restricted.

English language schools will also be required to demonstrate they have reached an acceptable quality standard.

From the autumn, an eight-month permission will be given to students attending a 25-week English language programme.

Students can apply for three of these permissions. The current system allows students to apply for a 12-month permission each time.

The measures were brought to Cabinet by Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

They come after the reputation of Ireland’s €800m-a-year industry suffered following a series of closures last year which left more than 3,000 international students without schools.

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