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Uninsured students hit by school closure

At least 13 students who had paid money to International House Galway were not covered by learner protection insurance, leaving them in limbo when the language school went into liquidation at the end of January, it has emerged. 

International House Galway went into liquidation in January. Photo: iStock.

Some of the students have now been offered places at other schools in Galway

The Irish Council for International Students raised concerns about the closure of International House Galway after being contacted by students and recruitment agencies who had not been refunded or offered places at alternative schools, including from Spain and Turkey.

Although the majority of the students who were studying in Galway at the time of the closure are thought to have now been relocated, it appears there are other students who have paid money to International House Galway waiting for refunds or relocation.

Under Irish immigration laws, learners from outside the European Economic Area must have learner protection insurance but there is no such requirement for EU students.

Some of the uninsured students have now been offered places at other schools in Galway for no extra cost, according to Lorcan O’Connor Lloyd, general manager at Marketing English in Ireland.

Laura Harmon, executive director at ICOS, said, “It is inconceivable to think that people paid money to the International House Galway, a reputable English language school in Ireland, and then for it to close down and for some students not to be offered any alternative.

“This is highly unethical and damaging to Ireland’s reputation as an international education destination. 

“All learners, regardless of their nationality, should have their course fees protected”

“All learners, regardless of their nationality, should have their course fees protected from the moment they pay their fees. Ultimately, the onus should be on the English language schools to guarantee students’ fees, not the other way around.”

ICOS also noted that the school had been advertising courses on social media two weeks before it closed.

O’Connor Lloyd said that the closure of the school had been “reasonably clean” but that, when it comes to student protection, EU students are “a gap to be addressed”. 

He advised any affected students to contact MEI. International students can also contact ICOS for support. 

Harmon called for “regular monitoring” of English language schools, including the introduction of a requirement to submit financial accounts to an oversight body. 

“ICOS continues to call for the introduction of the International Education Mark in Ireland to ensure the quality of courses and providers,” she added.

Emma Doyle, managing director at International House World Organisation, said the organisation was “saddened” by the closure.

“We sympathise with the students, staff and agent partners who have been adversely affected by the closing of the college. We are in regular communication with the shareholders and directors of IH Galway as we try to assist in minimising the impact of the closure on all those involved.

“As IH Galway is a member of Marketing English in Ireland, its learner protection scheme is currently placing students with other providers to ensure their tuition.

“IHWO is also in communication with MEI to try to ensure that all IH Galway students are offered support and are offered courses with other MEI members.

“Any affected students are advised to contact Marketing English in Ireland or IH Word Organisation.”

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