Dublin School of English closed suddenly on Friday 2 September, citing “ongoing crisis in the industry” caused by an onerous regulatory environment – a claim that has been met with scepticism in the sector.
“They came in on Thursday afternoon and said they were closing on the Friday”
However, the students are protected through Marketing English in Ireland, meaning that they can complete their courses at another MEI member school without paying additional tuition fees (although the Learner Protection scheme does not extend to accommodation).
The news also came as a surprise to MEI, which was given just a day’s warning of the closure, its CEO, David O’Grady, told The PIE News.
“[The owners] came in on Thursday afternoon and said they were closing on the Friday and they would have 80 students for us for Monday to reallocate under the MEI protection scheme,” he said.
The association moved quickly to put a notice on the door and set up a dedicated email account to contact students.
“It was important for us to get a clear message of what was happening to students who were confused and knocking on a closed door,” commented Lorcan O’Connor Lloyd, MEI’s marketing manager.
Member schools have been supportive, he said: “We haven’t been chasing up schools yet but schools have come to us and said they will take five or six [students] each.”
Founded in 1968 by Ernest Crossen, DSE was one of the first English language schools to begin operating in Ireland’s capital. It is now owned by Crossen’s two sons, Francis and Cian, who said they have been unable to find an investor or a buyer to keep the school afloat.
A statement on the school’s website attributed the closure to “mismanagement of the EFL industry in Ireland by the Department of Education and [the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service]”.
It added that regulations governing ELT schools issued earlier this year “have abjectly failed to deal with the systemic issues in the industry”.
However, stakeholders have refuted this claim, and many schools in Ireland have reported the market is positive thanks to recent rises in student numbers.
“To be honest, difficult trading conditions weren’t the problems there,” contended O’Grady.
DSE is the last of three schools founded in Dublin in the 1960s, along with The Language Centre of Ireland and The English Language Institute, all of which have now closed.
“The situation had nothing to do with market conditions,” echoed Justin Quinn, managing director at CES, a group of schools which has a branch in Dublin.
“I think it’s a sad day that a school founded in 1968 has found itself in the situation where it has had to close,” he added, praising MEI’s quick response.
Speaking with The PIE News, Francis Crossen said the company had looked for ways to avoid closure but “the abject failure of INIS to reform study and work programmes limited our options”. His comments concern rules relating to which providers are listed on the ILEP and able to actively trade.
Crossen said some 80 long-term students were replaced through the MEI protection of enrolled learners programme and 20 short-term students were accommodated by other partners in the industry “as a gesture of goodwill”.
DSE also had 300 arrivals in groups through September and October who were all placed in partner schools.
Future group bookings were catered for and short-term students (who would not have had the time to wait for the MEI protection of learners programme to cover costs) were looked after, he said.
“When we made the decision to close, we were acutely aware of our obligations to staff and to students. Unfortunately it is not possible to prepare staff and students in advance,” he said. “To signal that we were in such a position would have jeopardised the brand for a potential purchaser and triggered alarms with suppliers and partners.
We regret that it came as such a shock to people, but unfortunately this is what happens when a company closes.”
An INIS spokesperson told The PIE News the department was aware of the recent closure of the Dublin School of English and the comments of the school’s management. They said reforms to immigration regulation have been implemented in the sector over several years. “The extensive closure of privately operated English language colleges from 2014 has served to highlight certain problems in the sector, including immigration abuse,” they said.
“This department continues to cooperate closely with the other government departments and bodies responsible for quality standards in this area. We will also continue to set down and implement clear and transparent rules on student migration.”