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Student rights body gives cautious welcome to new list of visa eligible courses

Ongoing vigilance and complaints mechanism vitally needed


The Irish Council for International Students (ICOS) has welcomed yesterday evening's release of a long-delayed official listing of visa eligible courses for non-EEA students by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS). The list is based on more stringent immigration regulations and standards, designed to protect students following previous college closures. However, ICOS is surprised to see relatively few revisions to the providers appearing on the new Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP) in view of earlier issues, especially in the English language sector.

ICOS Director Sheila Power commented: "We welcome the clarity and certainty the new ILEP list will bring for students looking to buy courses. Many students have been waiting for the new list before committing. The reforms also mean that, for the first time, all listed courses must have compulsory 'learner protection' to safeguard fees in the event of a closure. This was a key deficit that ICOS highlighted in previous arrangements. Steps to bring in tougher standards were vitally necessary if rogue colleges were to be squeezed out of the sector."

However, Power added: "Continued vigilance will be required as it remains to be seen if all colleges listed are truly committed to quality provision and immigration compliance. It will be important that INIS carries out regular inspections and that the list is regularly reviewed. ICOS would also like to see the implementation of a complaints procedure where students can alert the authorities to problems at an early stage."


Notes for Editors

The January 2016 Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP) - fully replaces the previous Internationalisation Register as the listing of courses for which non-EEA nationals can obtain a study visa. The ILEP was originally scheduled for release on 1st January 2015 but was delayed by a High Court challenge and further postponed from 1st October 2015.

The ILEP is based on immigration compliance criteria and is not an assessment of the quality of the educational offering or financial viability of the listed colleges. ACELS quality recognition for English language programmes, a voluntary scheme operated by QQI is not superseded by the ILEP. ACELS recognition remains an important reference point for prospective learners seeking assurance about quality.

Government reforms, including the launch of the ILEP and other measures such as the reduced visa duration for English language programmes from 1 year to 8 months, were set out in May 2015.