Progressive College Network

David Russell, Chairman, PCN

Attention: Taoiseach, Simon Harris and Minister for Further Education, Research, Innovation & Science, Patrick O’Donovan

Progressive College Network (PCN) supports the introduction of the long-awaited and much-anticipated International Education Mark (IEM).

However, upon introduction, it must be fit for purpose. Ireland’s English Language Education (ELE) sector is competing with major players on the global stage. A major selling point for Ireland is the fact that international students can work and study.

Issues with the proposed Learner Protection (LP) fund – A major area of concern is that of the proposed LP fund, envisioned as part of the IEM scheme. Providers have enough on their plate without Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) introducing what is essentially a new annual tax. Insurance providers offering LP insurance are regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. Is QQI regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland? No, it is not. At the end of each calendar year, money held in the fund would disappear, meaning that paying into the proposed fund is basically a new unregulated tax, controlled by an organisation unregulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

The proposed LP fund, which QQI is touting as part of the IEM, makes the Irish exchequer liable for the potential failings of private further education and training (FET), higher education (HE), and ELE providers. It puts the Irish taxpayer firmly on the hook. Additionally, in cases of company bankruptcy, monies owed to banks and/or Revenue would be drawn from the proposed LP fund, as this would be seen as an asset of the company.

Solutions to the issues at hand: As always, PCN is proactive in not only pointing out issues but also presenting real-world, practical solutions.

Learner Protection Insurance – Scrap the troublesome LP fund and introduce the IEM. Allow providers who already have a comprehensively proven LP format (LP insurance) to continue to offer this proven form of LP. Asking providers who are already comprehensively protecting their students (and staff wages in the case of PCN) to scrap a proven LP method, in favour of an unproven one, is not only unfair but reckless. Providers with no form of proper LP or who cannot prove long-term use of LP insurance should be asked to contribute to the proposed LP fund.

Extend ILEP Timetables – Change timetables to include morning, afternoon, and evening classes for Interim List of Eligible Programmes-listed (ILEP) English language courses. Currently, only mornings and afternoons are possible. This change would benefit providers, students, Irish employers, and the Irish exchequer. It would mean more flexibility regarding hours of work, and Ireland’s employers would have greater scope to employ much-needed staff. Students form a key part of the nation’s workforce. Employers all over the country are finding it ever more difficult to find staff, so this change would be beneficial to all involved. Plus, it would have the added benefit of making Ireland an even more attractive option for international students.

Post-pandemic, ELE providers, like those in all sectors, are finding the climate difficult to navigate, with climbing energy costs and the upward trajectory of the cost of living. Being able to add a third set of classes to daily offerings would greatly boost the industry.

PCN calls on the minister to step up and do what is best for the country and the sector. It is time for action and change. PCN remains committed to the betterment of Ireland’s ELE sector and remains at the disposal of the minister. For further information, contact.

For further information contact David Russell, Chairman : 
Phone: 086 053 5229