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English Language Schools - Student Guide

*** Important policy changes for English Language Schools took effect from 20th January 2016. » Read more

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.


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 recive 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.


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?

Under government reforms, from 20th January 2016 all student immigration permissions for English language courses are limited to 8 months (rather than 1 year). All 1 year English language visas issued before 20th January 2016 remain valid until their expiry date but any renewal will be 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 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?

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.


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 EEA students.


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

Yes. Non-EEA nationals can study a maximum of three English language programmes. Total study time for English language and non-Degree programmes combined is limited to 3 years. The overall maximum period allowed for all studies in Ireland is 7 years.


Last updated: January 2016