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Learner Protection

All courses with public institutions, like universities and institutes of technology, have secure learner protection. However, some private colleges offer no meaningful form of 'learner protection' and students at these colleges will simply lose their fees if they close because there is no right to transfer to another college or to receive a refund.

Learner Protection is an additional safeguard that all students should look for when choosing a course with a private provider, as well as it being accredited to Irish standards. (Also see our information for English language courses / non-English language courses).

All 'learner protection' is not the same

It is easy for a college to say it has 'learner protection'. However, it is important for students to be sure what this means. If a college says it has protection based on 'insurance', ICOS expects this to mean that each student gets a credible insurance policy document in their own name - nothing less. Also, we do not think there is realistic learner protection from a mere 'exchange of letters' (where two colleges say they will take on all the displaced students if the other closes).

The ICOS View

There are three main kinds of learner protection for courses with private colleges that ICOS believes are of value:


Checking Learner Protection

Advice from the Irish immigration service (INIS) has emphasised the importance of students getting written details of any learner protection arrangements being promised by a college:

"NOTE: Students ... are strongly advised to carefully consider the college at which they are seeking to enrol. Students should fully satisfy themselves of the Protection for Learner arrangements in place at the college and should seek details of those arrangements in writing."

Ask a college whether it offers any form of learner protection for your course and what type of protection it is. Make sure you get an explanation in writing of what happens if the college closes or if it cannot deliver the course you have paid for for some other reason.

Especially if you are paying fees well in advance, another important thing to understand clearly is whether protection of fees begins at the time of paying for a course or only at a later time, such at the point of starting your studies or at the time of having an enrolled learner protection bond issued.


NOTE: Learner protection may also be referred to as Protection for Enrolled Learners (PEL) or Protection for Learners (PfL).


Last updated: August 2016