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Sixth school closes amid Irish visa fraud probe

The Business and Computer Training Institute (BCT) in Dublin has become Ireland’s sixth private college to close its doors after a Sunday Times investigation into visa fraud in April sparked the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) to revoke visa issuing licenses at a string of schools.

BCT Institute's website was shut down this week and its staff email addresses are no longer working

“The joint commitment through the Task Force to tighten regulation inevitably means that further closures will follow"

Despite the disruption to genuine students, sector stakeholders have reacted positively to the closure as a way of weeding out bogus operators.

Since the scandal broke, former Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn set up a joint Task Force to tighten regulation on the sector and reallocate genuine students to alternative colleges in Ireland.

“For years institutions that have been operating in Ireland offering courses not accredited by Irish authorities”

According to the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS), around 60 of BCT’s 500 international students, including a group of 14 Russian students who arrived this weekend, are still waiting to complete their courses.

And there may be even more students affected who have booked in advance and are now unable to contact the school after its website and staff emails were disconnected.

Speaking to The PIE News, Colin Tannam from ICOS said he was unsurprised at the school closure but added that “as the commencement of the academic year is very close, students need to be supported by the authorities to establish their next steps.”

ICOS has been communicating with former BCT students to collate their details so that they can be represented by a native English speaker at a proposed liquidation meeting this Friday with the school’s owners, HSD Education.

CEO of Marketing English in Ireland (MEI) David O’Grady, who is part of the recently established Task Force told The PIE News that in the processes of cleaning up the sector school closures are unavoidable.

“The MEI position has been that for years institutions that have been operating in Ireland offering courses not accredited by Irish authorities and selling at derisory prices have been a huge impediment to the regulated, quality ELT sector,” he commented.

“The joint commitment, through the Task Force, of the Departments of Education and of Justice to tighten regulation inevitably means that further closures will follow,” said O’Grady.

Earlier this year, BCT students, who preempted the school’s closure following its visa issuance suspension, wrote a letter to the national media in order to expose their struggle publicly.

“It is unclear how much money, if any, due to students who had not completed their studies, will be refunded”

“If BCT closes, it is not just the building that will close, it is also our future dreams and our present investments,” they appealed.

BCT’s students now join the hundreds of displaced students from other closed schools including Millennium College, The Allied Irish College, Eden College, Kavanagh College and the Irish Business School, waiting for compensation.

So far it’s been a slow process claimed Tannam. “It is unclear how much money, if any, due to students who had not completed their studies, will be refunded,” he said.

Ruairi Quinn was Ireland’s Minister for Education and Skills from March 2011 until July 11 2014 when he resigned. Quinn was replaced in a cabinet reshuffle by Irish Labour Party politician Jan O’Sullivan.

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