Belfast Telegraph

'Quality mark' for foreign students

A quality mark system to help restore Ireland's reputation for educating foreign students should be in place by the end of the year, it has been claimed.

The Government plans to reform the foreign student market, turning it into a 1.2 billion euro industry by raising standards and adopting a strict visa entry regime.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern accepted the country's standing had been hit hard by rogue operators who effectively lured foreign pupils here for questionable courses.

"There will be better inspections, more co-ordinated inspections," he said.

"Because there is no doubt the reputation of these (schools) generally has been somewhat damaged by these bogus schools."

The Government's 10-point plan aims to increase international student numbers in higher education by 50% to 38,000 and in English language schools by 25% to 120,000 over the next four years.

It is also targeting an increase in the proportion of full-time international students in higher education taking research or taught postgraduate courses to 35% from 23%.

Achieving the plan could be worth 1.2 billion euro to the economy - up from 900 million euro.

The aim of the initiative is to focus on and attract high-end, quality, legitimate and genuine students looking to study in Ireland, while only schools who secure the quality mark for standards will be allowed to educate foreign students.

Mr Ahern said the Garda has been adept at tracking down bogus operators in the education sector but warned that the new approach would not be a "one-size-fits-all".

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