Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Questions (303)

Clare Daly


303. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will introduce legislation to protect students and staff in language colleges, in view of the fact that a number of these colleges collapsed in 2011 in similar circumstances to the current closures, which could have been avoided if changes had been brought in then. [23330/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012 makes provision for a new quality framework for education institutions targeting international students, centred around an International Education Mark and a related Code of Practice. Institutions applying for authorisation to use the Mark will have to both agree their overall procedures for quality assurance with Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) and demonstrate their compliance with the Code.

QQI are currently finalising development of the Mark and the Code. The agency has just published a White Paper outlining, for consultation purposes, the proposed policy to be adopted regarding authorisation to use the Mark. This is available on its website www.qqi.ie. The consultation process will be open until 25 July 2014. It is the intention that the first applications for the Mark will be taken by QQI in the last quarter of this year.

Regarding the immediate concerns raised by the closure of a number of private colleges, I and my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality have established a Task Force to urgently examine the issues involved. The Task Force is chaired by the two Departments and includes representatives from QQI, Enterprise Ireland and City of Dublin Education and Training Board as well as representatives of the private high-quality higher education and English language sectors and the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS).

The Group is charged with assessing the scale of the issue and, in particular, the number of genuine students who have not yet been accommodated. It will also determine what capacity is available in the sector to make accommodation for students and will oversee a system that seeks to make such accommodation.