Press Release of the Private College Network 30 January 2015

Upcoming changes in regulation to the English language education sector

The Private College Network is newly formed organisation comprising private colleges with a common interest in the promotion of the education industry in Ireland and abroad and the promotion of improved standards of education and compliance within the Industry.
 
The organisation supports the Minister for Justice in her wishes to tighten and improve the industry and the compliance with regulation by all education providers. Its members welcome the implementation of the International Education Mark and call for its introduction as soon as possible.
 
The Minister must ensure that any upcoming changes are introduced in a fair and transparent manner.
 
The members of the organisation and the wider private college community, especially in the English language education sector, now call upon the Minister to announce without delay the changes to be introduced on an interim basis pending the full implementation of the International Education Mark.
 
The Minister is aware that the announcement of the 2nd September had an immediate, serious and negative impact on the English language education sector as a whole. It resulted in uncertainty amongst the entire community with a resultant downturn in sales of courses. Since this time the college community has had to deal with a reduction in cash flow placing hundreds of jobs in the industry at risk. The ongoing delay is exacerbating the uncertainty and difficulties being faced by colleges. The latest college to close as a result of lack of sales was the ACELS accredited A2Z College with the loss of a number of jobs and the further loss of students’ fees.
 
It is appreciated by all members that the Minister needs to both protect the interests of the foreign students coming to Ireland and to assure those students that, until such time as the International Education Mark is fully implemented, there is no risk to the colleges they attend, the completion of the courses they enrol for and most importantly the money they have spent. To meet this need all colleges in the Network have now implemented an insurance scheme operated by one of the countries longest established brokerages. In the event of a college closure, the policy will organise a transfer of the student to another college to complete their studies or a refund to the students of fees.
 
The second issue facing the industry is the uncertainty in the accreditations being recognised for the issue of visas for Non EU / EEA students. The Network feels that the time frames for change and the manner of implementation do not recognise the commercial lead times for proper implementation of change and is further in disregard to globally recognised accreditations from leading institutes of education in the UK and other countries. The particular concern is that courses are not being excluded on their merits, especially where they are similar to other acceptable courses on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
 
To alleviate the difficult position the Minister finds herself in The Private College Network has put together an action plan for change designed to establish immediate calm in the industry, protect the need for change and the interests of all stakeholders as follows:

  • The Minister should maintain the Internationalisation Register until the full implementation of the International Education Mark and set a target date of the 1st January 2016 for the introduction of changes in regulation.
  • The Minister should apply the resources of the Quality and Qualifications Ireland to the full roll out of the IEM as soon as possible.
  • The Minister should enhance the role and resources of the Garda National Immigration Bureau and/or the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service to carry out inspections on a regular basis and to ensure compliance with the existing regulations by all colleges in the sector.
  • For the immediate protection of students now and into the future all colleges seeking visas should secure an approved insurance policy protecting the student from loss as a result of college closures and provide evidence of the policy with each application for a visa for that student.
  • The publication now for the benefit of accreditation bodies currently operating in this jurisdiction of the acceptable standards and component parts of the courses required by colleges following full implementation in January 2016 to afford those bodies the opportunity to adjust their courses as necessary to meet the higher standards to be applied.

The Network calls upon the Minister to act immediately and without further delay to restore calm and certainty to the market place for the protection of jobs and the existing student body.
 
The representatives of the Network are available to meet with the Minister to discuss the issues at stake as soon as the Minster is available.
 
The 30th January 2015
 
Martin Moloney solicitor
For and on behalf of the Private College Network.