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English Language Schools - Student Guide

Are all English schools in Ireland regulated to the same standards?

No. There is no compulsory regulation for English language providers. There are many excellent English language schools in Ireland but because the sector is not fully regulated it is always important to make careful checks into any school you are considering. For more information you should check the ICOS guide to choosing a course.

English language providers are very varied - from small private schools to universities. Most students attending courses in Ireland are from the EU and may study for only a few weeks. Many schools also offer longer programmes and may be eligible to recruit non-EEA students. The minimum course length for non-EEA students applying for a student visa is 25 weeks.


What is ACELS recognition for English schools?

ACELS logo ACELS is a voluntary national scheme responsible for the recognition and inspection of English language schools to maintain standards. It is administered by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI).

The scheme has over 100 recognised schools across the country who may use the ACELS logo. ACELS can withdraw recognition if a school fails to comply with regulations. ACELS quality recognition for a course is separate from its visa eligibility, which is assessed by the immigration service. (Note: The ACELS scheme is being replaced with a 'quality mark' system. New English language schools cannot be recognised by ACELS but those established before 2014 had chance to prove quality through ACELS).


How much can I expect to pay for a 25 week course?

The cost varies a lot between schools but ICOS is concerned that a few advertise low prices that do not seem to 'add up'. We believe these can turn into a bad deal for students. ICOS has previously advised extra care with any course priced below 1,500 Euro. Good quality English courses generally cost quite a lot more than this, sometimes double. Although there is competition on price, if a school is offering a very low figure, we think students should be suspicious. Remember that English language schools in Ireland are not fully regulated; bad schools can pay for good looking websites. It is important not simply to choose on cost. Make as many checks as you can. Look for reviews and comments on Facebook, Google and other websites, talk to previous students if possible.


What kind of class schedules, timetables and facilities can I expect for a 25 week course?

All 25 week English language courses provided to non-EEA students must be delivered between 9am and 5pm on at least 4 days per week between Monday and Friday. Classes must be for at least 15 hours excluding breaks - i.e. there should be at least 15 x 60 minutes of teaching time.

Non-EEA students must receive a timetable setting out teaching hours, days and holiday periods at the start of the course. All 25 weeks of classes must be completed within a 7 month period. A student must present their timetable when registering for a GNIB card. The school cannot change a student's timetable and a student cannot switch class or class times.

Schools must provide a student library / resource centre adequate for the maximum number of students.


What information should I receive from a school in addition to my timetable?

You should receive a comprehensive student handbook setting out all college policies and procedures. All schools must operate a complaint and grievance procedure which students can use if they are not satisfied. You also have a right to receive information on weekly lesson plans for your course.

Your 'Confirmation of Enrolment' letter from your school is needed by non-EEA students to register with the immigration service. This letter should clearly state the start date of classes for your course. Make sure to take a clear photograph of this letter before you register so you have a copy.


Can I arrange holidays during the course?

Immigration rules say that no holidays or breaks will be permitted which are not part of a student's timetable, except for documented illness or family bereavement. No period of holiday can be given before classes begin. There are defined periods in which non-EEA students can work full-time in Winter and Summer. Schools are not required to align holidays with these dates. » Read more

This does not apply to EEA students.


How long will a study visa be issued for an English language course?

All student immigration permissions for English language courses are now issued for 8 months. Immigration permissions for higher education courses continue to be one year visas. » Read more


Can I change class or level?

Students are registered with the immigration service for a specific class. They cannot be moved to a different class group to the one they enrolled on. Classes should begin with a maximum of 15 students and there should be no switching of non-EEA students between classes.

This does not apply to EU/EEA students.


Can I get a refund if my visa application is refused and I cannot come to Ireland?

Yes, the immigration service requires that refunds of advance fees are made within 20 working days (4 weeks) of a student presenting their visa refusal letter and completed refund claim to a school. An administrative fee may be deducted if this was stated as part of the terms and conditions of making a booking. » Read more


Can I get a refund if I am not happy with the course?

Usually, no. It is a standard term of school refund policies that no refunds will be made once a course has begun. This does not affect a student's rights under consumer law (e.g that a service provided should be as described in promotional materials). If use of the school's internal complaints procedure does not produce a satisfactory outcome, a student has the right to make a complaint to the regulatory authorities in addition to legal action. Making a very careful choice of school can avoid a lot of problems.


Am I required to do an exam at the end of the course?

ICOS has produced a specific guide to exam requirements for English language school students.


Can I enrol on another class at the same level?

Immigration rules say that non-EEA students will not be able to enrol on a second consecutive programme at the same or lower level, meaning that students must be able to show progression to renew their visa.

This does not apply to EU/EEA students.


Are there restrictions on how long I can study English language courses for?

Yes, non-EEA nationals can only avail of up to three English language study visas. Each visa is for a period of 8 months; therefore 2 years is the maximum time a non-EEA student may study English. The overall maximum period allowed for all studies in Ireland is 7 years.


Last updated: February 2018