Few displaced students in Ireland take up MEI offer

16, October, 2014

Roughly 15 per cent of the 3,000 English language students displaced by college closures in Ireland have taken up the offer to study at a Marketing English in Ireland (MEI) member school at a reduced rate, Study Travel Magazine found out at the association’s workshop in Dublin this Monday.

The workshop saw representatives from 36 schools and 54 agencies in attendance this year.

A number of private colleges in the country shut down this year after being stripped of their right to recruit students from outside the European Union (EU), and MEI arranged the deal as part of the newly formed Task Force launched to tighten regulations.

“With only a fraction of the displaced 3,000 students taking up a place at an MEI school, this might indicate that the majority of these students were migrant workers,” said CEO David O’Grady.  “Of the students that did transfer to an MEI school, many were Brazilian and Venezuelan.” Meanwhile, representatives from schools such as IH Dublin and Atlantic Language Travel said that they had enrolled a handful of displaced students.

In an official statement to Study Travel Magazine, a spokesperson from the Department of Justice and Equality said, “Students may have not taken up the offer for a variety of reasons including returning to country of origin or because they were availing of the academic holiday that the Ministry of Justice granted all students until September 1.” However, they add that the academic holiday is now over and that students need to enrol on a course on the Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP) before October 31. “Students enrolling on a course that will not meet the criteria of the ILEP do so at their own risk.”

O’Grady also reported that Ireland’s ELT sector has suffered some reputational damage in Korea as a result of the college closures, which the Irish embassy in Korea aims to address through hosting a student workshop scheduled to take place in early January.

In other news, MEI has closed new membership applications for the remainder of the year in light of new reforms to Ireland’s international education sector. The International Education Mark (IEM), aiming to clamp down on visa abuse in the ELT and HE sectors through quality assurance and school inspections, has caused the association to rethink its membership criteria with schools currently only needing Irish school accreditation for at least two years to apply. A membership committee was formed earlier in the year to decide on new criteria of acceptability, and MEI plans to come to a decision at the annual general meeting (AGM) in December.

Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), the government department responsible for the launch of the IEM, will hold workshops for Irish ELT schools in November to inform them of the potential implications. A concern is that some smaller MEI members may not pass the IEM, O’Grady said, which would mean that they are no longer able to enrol non-EU students. This would not be due to a lack of quality but instead possibly owing to a lack of range of courses – although he added that this is not definite and the IEM criteria are yet to be decided.

“The refinements proposed should help guarantee genuine students for genuine educators, and these are the only parties for the space,” O’Grady commented. “MEI member schools look forward to playing their part in this exciting, but challenging, way ahead.”

Across the board schools reported that business has generally been good in 2014, with Gina Witherow, Director of Donegal English Language School, reporting that she is opening a new summer centre in a few weeks to cater for an increase in business. In line with other schools, she said that numerous enrolments came from Brazil, Spain, France and Italy, while Brendan Kelly, Director at MLI International Schools, with Irish centres in Dublin, Galway and Limerick, explained that Ireland is also gaining recognition in China due to the UK’s restrictive visa regulations.

In total, representatives from 36 schools and 54 agencies attended the workshop this year, with O’Grady noting there were more Korean, Turkish and Russian agents this time. The next event is due to take place next October at the Four Seasons Hotel in Dublin.

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