Written answers

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Department of Education and Skills

English Language Training Organisations

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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483. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if her attention has been drawn to the fact that an English language school (details supplied) is refusing to refund students for courses and examinations cancelled owing to Covid-19; and if the matter will be examined in view of the obligations for a provider to have established policies and procedures for the refund of fees to students in addition to a complaints procedure in the event of student complaint as part of the conditions to be included on the Interim List for Eligible Programmes and therefore be eligible to recruit international students. [18622/20]

Norma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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I am aware that issues have been raised in relation to refunds for students in the English language education (ELE) sector. These issues have been discussed at the ELE Covid-19 Working Group chaired by my Department.

In compliance with the Government Decision taken in March 2020, all English language education (ELE) providers closed their premises in accordance with public health advice as part of efforts to combat the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, English language education providers introduced new ways of providing services to their students including facilitating the provision of online classes. This reflects a similar approach that has been adopted by providers across the wider education system. If a student is having issues with the programme on offer or in accessing a provider’s services, they can engage with their provider to address these issues.

It is not within the remit of my Department to pursue providers for refunds arising from fees paid by students. This is a matter between the student and their provider. However, as part of the conditions for a provider to have its programmes included on the Interim List for Eligible Programmes (ILEP) and therefore be eligible to recruit International Students, it must have established policies and procedures for the refund of fees to students in addition to a complaints procedure in the event of student complaints. These should be communicated to the student at time of enrolment.

If the students have exhausted the internal complaints procedure of the provider in question and are still unhappy about the outcome, they can make a complaint to the Immigration Delivery Service of the Department of Justice and Equality. However, in the case of a complaint regarding refunds, this can only relate to whether a provider has followed their internal refunds policy. If the provider’s refund policy was followed, there can be no further intervention into a private agreement between a provider and their student.

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