Investigation into private college closures launched

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) is launching an investigation into private language schools which have agreed to take students of other defunct schools on board.

Carlyle Institute students were told of its abrupt closure last week after the students of the Grafton Street school had already paid fees of €1,500.

The Private Colleges Network (PCN) is a representative body which serves several language schools around Ireland. It offered to take in the 400 students affected by the closure of Carlyle free of charge after the college closed.

However, two of PCN’s now former colleges are under investigation by immigration officials and have been taken off the internationalisation register. Limerick City College (LCC) and Cork City College (CCC) are no longer allowed to recruit students who require visas.

Officials found that LCC was enrolling students into a course accredited by Birmingham City University in the UK. Many of the students enrolled at LCC were not on the records of the English school and were therefore ineligible to gain a qualification.

The two colleges’ logos were removed from the PCN website as early as Wednesday. PCN managing director David Russell blamed the hasty way in which the PCN was put together as the main reason why schools that may have had a bad reputation were allowed in.

“When we set up PCN it was to ensure that students didn’t lose their money and could attend a college,” he said. “PCN is a new group, we wanted to set up a quick network. We weren’t aware of what was happening. We’ll use more oversight in the future.”

With the removal of LCU and CCU, four of PCN’s five remaining colleges are not accredited.”They use UK accreditation bodies that do not properly scrutinise what is happening,” said Dave Moore, head of the Irish Council for Interntional Students (ICOS). “It’s an area that’s ripe for abuse”.

ICOS has been one of the few sources of support for students who have found their language college suddenly closed. It is pushing for the introduction of escrow accounts, or accounts that are independent from the college and will protect students’ fees.

“I paid 800 for my fees and 200 for insurance,” said Malaysian student Saw. “I’m very frustrated. I went to school everyday and it just closed.”

During his time in Carlyle, Saw said that classes were frequently overcrowded: “There were fifty students in one class.”

Carlyle continued to accept money until April 2nd. On April 3rd it announced it was taking Easter holidays until the 13th. One week after money was last accepted, the college announced its closure.
Aura McMenamin

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