English Language Schools & Visa Required Education

At M.P. Moloney we have a particular expertise in the specific area of the regulation of English language schools in Ireland. A number of businesses in the country operate in the market of the sale of English language courses to students from outside the EU. This is a lucrative market but is one subject to various strands regulation that must be adhered to carefully. The impact of a failure to properly adhere to the code applying to this sector can mean in some instances a business being no longer able to trade. Firstly most businesses are concerned with the provision of English language courses only. The Government no longer recognises external business and hospitality courses for visa purposes unless those courses have been validated by the State Authority Quality and Qualifications Ireland. These courses remain available for sale to students within the EU.

This sector is currently governed by rules for the entry and admission onto the Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP) the successor to the Internationalisation Register. All students attending colleges whose English language courses are currently listed on the ILEP can attend Ireland and obtain a visa to see out that course of study. This is the list administered by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) pending the full roll out of the International Education Mark. The International Education Mark is expected to be implemented at some point in 2023 or 2024.

Any applicant seeking admission to the Interim List of Eligible Programmes must demonstrate its ability to adhere to the various regulations governing entry. These can include matters such as recognised qualifications for teachers and Directors of Studies, the conduct of classes within permitted hours, the framework of a course of study over a particular period, the ability to monitor student attendance as required, etc. All course providers must ensure that they now have adequate protection for enrolled learner arrangements in place. The only option available for new entrants is an insurance policy offered by one provider in Ireland. A failure to adhere to the regulation could result in the removal of courses from the ILEP after which no visa will be available to students attending the college in question.

Escrow arrangements are also required for all colleges who sell courses requiring payment in advance and for students from particular countries. Once implemented monies paid by students who have not yet landed in Ireland will be held in a separate account and protected until such time as that student arrives and obtains their visa to commence study.

In addition to the regulations for the ILEP, some colleges applied for and procured the further accreditation now know as ACELS (Accreditation and Coordination of English Language Services). This accreditation was operated previously by a private organisation. AS of 2012 it was subsumed in the Statutory Authority QQI and is administered through their offices. The accreditation is no longer available to new entrants. It is thought the International Education Mark will to some extent mirror the framework of ACELS regulation combined with the regulations now in force for the ILEP. College who hold the ACELS accreditation are subject to the further regulations governing the use of that mark connected with the sales and conduct of their courses.

At M.P. Moloney we work with a number of business in this sector. We are the law firm involved in the 2014 High Court case which caused a fundamental change in the implementation strategy originally proposed by the Government following college closures. A number of businesses facing closure as a result of the original proposals remained open following the successful outcome of our Clients’ court challenge. We have further engaged with business affected by QQI enforcement of the ACELS regulations.

Any business operating in this market or which is interested in entry into the Irish market for English language education should consult with us. The impact of a failure to adhere to regulation can cause very serious financial and reputational damage for any business in this competitive market. We are no only familiar with the specific regulatory framework, we have a track record of successfully protecting the interests of Clients from matters ranging from enquiry to full enforcement by the relevant State Agencies INIS and QQI.

Martin Moloney
e: info@mpmoloney.ie