IRELAND’s reputation for excellence in education has been damaged by the closures of five international schools, Ruairi Quinn has said.
The shut-downs have been “serious” for the country’s standing abroad, the Minister for Education admitted.
And more private schools may yet go out of business, he said.
He was speaking as some 30 students protested outside Dublin’s Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) offices.
“It’s serious for the students directly affected, but it’s serious for Ireland as a recognised centre of excellence for education and particularly for learning English,” Mr Quinn said.
He established a task force yesterday to find a solution for those left without classes.
The group will also report on ways to regulate the language school sector.
Thousands of students come to Ireland every year on study visas to improve their English.
“I want to assure students who may be listening to this that their visa status will not be changed so they won’t be required to leave the country or anything like that,” Mr Quinn told RTE.
“It’s in everybody’s interest in the education sector and in Ireland generally that we don’t get bad publicity internationally and that the bona fide providers . . . do not take a reputational hit,” he added.
Dave Moore of the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS) said reform is long overdue.
“It’s precisely what we have been calling for for the last while,” he said.
Former Eden College student Amanda Medeiros said some of her ex-classmates have been left destitute. She found an alternative college but the vast majority have not.
“My situation is good but there are people starving, that’s the real truth,” Ms Medeiros told
Venezuelan students had been receiving financial assistance from their government but this ended with the closures. Eden College, IBS, Kavanagh College, Millennium College and Cork’s Allied Irish College have all closed.