Wednesday 13 November 2019

Angry students who claim they are owed up to €500K by private college hold vigil

Company now seeking voluntary liquidation

Shelbourne College on Dublin's Camden Street.
Shelbourne College on Dublin's Camden Street.

Mark O’Regan

Angry students who claim they are owed thousands of euro by a private college held a vigil in Dublin - but it has emerged the company is now seeking voluntary liquidation.

Shelbourne College will be immediately removed from the official registration system, according to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS).

The students say that up to €500,000 is owed to 150 students who paid up front for various courses.

The students were told the college, which got into financial trouble last November, would re-open this morning.

But when it failed to do so, a number of students decided to hold a  a vigil outside the deserted premises in Camden Street.

Robin Manandher, from Nepal, came to Ireland last November to attend a business course at the college.

The 24-year-old, now forced to live in city centre hostels, said he has lost over €5,000.

"We already paid our money but it's totally lost. I'm in a total dilemma and under huge pressure," he told independent.ie

He said his family cannot fund any similar course in Ireland, and his father is trying to take out a mortgage because of what happened.

"But the bank is refusing to approve the mortgage so we have many problems.

"My father earns €3,840 a year - that's €320 a month.

"In total, I paid close to €6,000 in fees for a diploma in business. I don't know what to do."

He added: "I chose Ireland to study because I heard a lot of good news about this country.

''I want to ask the Government why this sort of thing is happening again and again.''

The students holding the vigil were joined by representatives from the Irish Council for International Studies (ICOS).

"Students in Ireland were promised in November that the college would re-open on this date. Since then, all evidence has pointed to the contrary - but today is a final reckoning with the realities," said ICOS Communications Officer, Dave Moore.

“This vigil has a huge question as its backdrop: ‘Where’s the money?’ All of those affected are really hoping the Irish authorities will pursue an urgent answer and bring some justice to this terrible situation – it is one that was clearly allowed to go on too long.”

The majority of the students come from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Vietnam and the Phillipines - and in most cases paid their fees before ever coming to Ireland.

The Irish student visa system requires many non-EU citizens who wish to come and study in this country to first pay their fees to a number of approved colleges.

It is only then prospective students can apply for an entry visa.

However, a problem can arise if the visa application is subsequently rejected.

Efforts to contact Mr Adnan Wahla from Shelbourne College who assured students by email the college would re-open proved unsuccessful.

In a statement, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) said the College will be immediately removed from the Internationalisation Register, which means it will not be granted relevant ''immigration permission.”

The Service said it is aware of allegations the college has failed to refund monies due to certain students whose visa applications were refused.

'''While INIS cannot comment on specific allegations regarding refund of fees, it is understood that some funds remain outstanding, and the affected students should continue to pursue this issue with the college.''

The statement continued: ''A college taking money from students pending a visa application, is fully aware that they have no entitlement to those funds, until the student is confirmed as being allowed to come to Ireland as a student.

''This is standard practice across EU jurisdictions which are involved in international student business. Should the student's visa application be refused then the fees must be returned (less a reasonable small handling charge). Almost all colleges honour their commitments in this respect.''

Shelbourne College had already been put on notice that it should inform students of their rights to a refund.

''INIS has pursued this matter with the management of the college since this issue came to its attention. INIS will be in further contact with the appropriate Garda Authorities in relation to this matter,'' said the statement from the Service.”

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