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Media Release: 16/4/14


College suspensions welcome but miss the mark on quality issue


Kavanagh College closure highlights wider problems

Irish immigration services today announced the suspension of issuing visas and residence permissions for new non-EU applicants to four Dublin private colleges following recent media allegations[1]. For international student advocates the move is broadly welcome but also misses the mark in terms of many key issues related to quality that surround Ireland's large number of small, poorly regulated education providers.

"ICOS and other stakeholders have long been aware of problems in the system which have resulted in unsuspecting international students finding themselves registered for courses of doubtful value and poor quality, attending so-called colleges, often in grim locations with poor facilities. A glossy website can hide some ugly truths," says ICOS Director Sheila Power.

Recent years have also witnessed the periodic collapse of small private colleges, most recently instanced yesterday when Kavanagh College on Marlborough Street shut its doors. "College closures not only disrupt studies but also frequently lead to significant financial losses for international students unable to recover fees or afford new ones with another provider," explains Power.

It's exactly this backdrop that colours ICOS' response to the suspensions: "This is the first publicly announced suspension of a group of colleges for alleged visa malpractice. Something like this is welcome in terms of serving as a warning for prospective students to look elsewhere when trying to assess colleges from thousands of miles away. It will, however, raise fears and uncertainties for those students already enrolled, as the future viability of these colleges is plunged into doubt", says Power.

"None of the suspended colleges were accredited by ACELS/QQI, which regulates Ireland's English language sector - but unfortunately, many small, private colleges lie essentially outside of the country's current, limited regulation mechanisms," notes Power. That's set to change with an official International Education Mark (IEM), a kind of quality mark, to be introduced later this year which seeks to make it easier for international students to identify colleges with good standards and bonding arrangements in place.

For ICOS, the new arrangements can't come soon enough: "Although ICOS can continue to advise all prospective students to enrol only with recognised colleges and programmes, the government's quality assurance measures centred on the new International Education Mark are urgently needed." concludes Power.

ICOS is in active discussion with the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) regarding the best way forward for the students affected by this week's developments and is reassured that students will receive sympathetic treatment regarding their immigration status while a longer term solution is sought.

Notes for Editors

[1] The college suspensions follow a story in the Sunday Times (13/4/14) where an undercover reporter, posing as an education agent, found that staff of four colleges seemed willing to fraudulently inflate students' reported attendance figures to assist in maintaining a visa.

The Irish Council for International Students (ICOS) - www.icosirl.ie - is an independent, non-profit organisation advocating for the rights of all international students in Ireland, whether studying in higher education, further education, in a language school or other setting.

Media Contact:

Dave Moore, Communications Officer, Irish Council for International Students (ICOS)

01-2315324 / dmoore [at] icosirl.ie

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