Measures to eliminate ‘rogue operators’ in English language sector welcomed by MEI

May 25, 2015

Marketing English in Ireland (MEI), which represents 52 highly professional and regulated English languages schools and colleges in Ireland, has been campaigning for over 18 months to deal with the significant unrest in the International Education sector in Ireland. The measures announced jointly by the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Education are most welcome and are required to get rid of what they describe as ‘rogue operators’.

According to MEI CEO, David O’Grady, “MEI share the objective of aiming to remove from operating those who exploit Irish immigration, employment and taxation regulations, abuse international students and cause reputational damage to the regulated English language sector in Ireland. MEI member schools and colleges educated almost 100,000 individual students in 2014, with over 80% coming from the EU (European Union) or EEA (European Economic Area). The overall direct contribution to the Irish economy from MEI member schools and colleges in 2014 is estimated to be in excess of €330 million.”

“The learner or student is the centre of all education and MEI strives to ensure that quality is what defines the experience of the international learner in our schools. MEI has had Learner Protection at the centre of our policy (and practice) for years. This has been on a voluntary basis and we welcome that the Government now plans to make it obligatory for all language school providers. Naturally, the rogue operators many of whom have closed in recent time did not have Learner Protection for their students and when these unscrupulous operators closed their doors and ran away with the students’ money, MEI facilitated these displaced students while working alongside the Government and other agencies.”

“As CEO of MEI, we’ve been happy as an organisation, to have played our part as a key member of the Task Force on Students Affected by Private College Closures and we will continue to work constructively with all key stakeholders to help eradicate the unscrupulous operators who have no regard for immigration rules or their students. These businesses have been described in media reports as being ‘rogue operators’ and as ‘colleges of concern’. As far as we are concerned in MEI, these new measures can’t come in quick enough. Rule changes to do with clarity about school and college ownership, clarification about the need for the language courses to be accredited in Ireland or by an EU University are steps in the right direction.”

As an organisation we wholeheartedly endorse the comments from the Department of Justice issued on 12th May 2015 where it was stated “Whilst there are many genuine language schools operating entirely legitimately, the efforts of these schools and of the State in promoting and regulating a valuable sector of the economy is being severely undermined by a small number of rogue operators. These operators have shown scant regard for immigration rules and no regard for the welfare of genuine students.”

“MEI as an organisation operating to the highest standards are keen to continue to engage with all the key stakeholders to ensure that measures introduced do not have adverse implications for the highly professional and regulated schools and colleges that our 52 members operate in Ireland. The curtailing of the length of time international students can take for holiday leave, deprives MEI of a competitive edge we have had in the marketplace. From this very difficult marketplace MEI brought in almost 100,000 students in 2014. MEI schools never exploited this concession of holiday leave and are now having to see it greatly reduced as the price for eliminating rogue operators.”

“MEI shares the overall vision of the Government and of the respective state agencies in this regard as it is also our desire to make Ireland a leader in the provision of high quality education for international students. The experience of the student is at the heart of all education. The dereliction of this objective by these rogue operators has damaged everyone. MEI hopes that pledges by the Government are the beginning of the end of the sham that has been played out before our eyes for the last few years.”

“MEI believes that the measures proposed by the Government should safeguard the strong international reputation of high-quality Irish education providers such as the MEI member schools and colleges. This of course needs to be balanced with need to protect the educational interests of genuine international students, while also ensuring abuses of the immigration and the labour market are eradicated. This new start, if it is that, can only work if regulatory arrangements are robustly and consistently implemented.”

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