Ministers O’Sullivan and Fitzgerald launch major reform of student immigration and the international education sector

Move will clamp down on abuse of student immigration, support high quality education providers and protect international students

Tuesday 2 September, 2014

Minister Jan O’Sullivan and Minister Frances Fitzgerald have announced major reforms of the international education sector in response to issues raised by the closure of a number of private sector colleges this year.

The reforms are necessary to protect the consumer and educational interests of genuine international students, to tackle abuse of the labour market and the immigration regime, and to safeguard the strong international reputation of high-quality Irish education providers.

The two Ministers also published the final report of the Task Force established to help students affected by the college closures. Alternative educational accommodation has been put in place for affected students.

The Task Force report noted that, despite strengthened rules in place, there continues to be abuse of student immigration by a number of low quality providers. With today’s announcement, the two Ministers are taking urgent action to address these concerns.

The new rules will take effect from 1st January 2015 and are set out in the Policy Statement “Regulatory Reform of the International Education Sector and the Student Immigration Regime”.

This sets out three pillars of reform:

  • A much more restrictive list of education programmes will be eligible for student immigration purposes. Only programmes which are accredited by Irish awarding bodies in the English language and higher education sectors will be permitted to recruit international students, with a few specific exceptions. Institutions will be required to have a track record of educational quality and immigration compliance.
  • An enhanced inspection and compliance regime will be introduced to monitor educational quality and immigration compliance.
  • Changes will be made to the operation of the work concession, which allows non-EEA students to work. The working year for the concession will be standardised to clamp down on abuse and to make the situation clearer for students and employers alike.
 

Minister O’Sullivan said: “Thousands of high-calibre students from around the world come to Ireland to study in our universities, institutes of technology, private colleges and English language schools. These students make a significant contribution to campuses and communities across the country. We cannot let our international reputation be damaged by low-quality provision or rogue operators. These reforms are crucial to ensuring that only those providers which can offer the highest standards can attract international students”.

Minister Fitzgerald said: “I welcome the report of the taskforce and the accommodation that has been put in place. My own Department extended assurances to all international students affected by these private sector college closures that their immigration permissions would be protected until 1 September 2014. I believe that the solutions agreed and implemented by the Task Force build upon this pragmatic and compassionate approach and offer genuine international students an excellent opportunity to study at a discount in quality assured colleges with proper learner protection arrangements.”

The Minister added: “We are now past the 1st September threshold where the students affected by college closures were regarded as being on academic holiday. I would remind those students that they are resident in Ireland on the basis of being an international student. For future immigration registrations they will have to demonstrate that they have fulfilled the immigration requirements of international students and have been studying full time.

Minister O’Sullivan urged all affected students to make sure that they satisfy the immigration requirements: “If you have not already enrolled on an appropriate education programme, it is vital that you do so immediately. The student task force website provides detailed guidance for students who still require an alternative education option.”

In welcoming the report of the Task Force, both Ministers noted their sincere appreciation for the commitment shown by Marketing English in Ireland and the Higher Education Colleges Association accommodating affected international students. The Ministers also commended the work of the Irish Council for International Students in helping affected students to address their immigration situation and to find alternative courses.


ENDS


Notes for Editors:


Link to Policy Statement “Regulatory Reform of the International Education Sector and the Student Immigration Regime” www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB14000225

Report of the Task Force on students affected by private college closures - www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB14000226

Detailed information for providers and students will be available on the websites of the Immigration and Naturalisation and Immigration Service (www.inis.gov.ie), the Department of Education and Skills (www.education.ie) and the Student Taskforce (www.studenttaskforce.ie).