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Stranded Spanish students finally get Galway school places

Shortly after our story about the sudden closure of IH Galway, we received an email from an irate Spanish agent asking us to reveal ‘the truth’. Despite press stories that all the students stranded when the school suddenly shut its doors, the agent still had five students enrolled at the bankrupt school and one due to fly out imminently.

According to the agent, IH World couldn’t help because there is only one IH school in Galway. Ireland’s main school association MEI couldn’t help because the old system, whereby members guaranteed free places for students whose schools had collapsed, was replaced last year by an insurance scheme which is compulsory for non-EU ‘visas students’, but voluntary for anyone from the EU.

Even the Irish Council for Overseas Students (ICOS) came in for a shellacking from the Spanish, who said their claim that all the students were being dealt with was “Not true”.

We called the agent to offer our help, but she was not in and did not come back to us. So we turned to ICOS. Within 15 minutes of our call they had issued a searing press statement. 

“Despite reports last week suggesting that all students impacted by the closure had been facilitated, ICOS understands that there are a number of students and agencies who paid money to the International House, but have yet to be offered an alternative solution.ICOS notes that, in some cases, students reported that the school did not offer them Learner Protection when they bought their course.

ICOS’s redoubtable Executive Director, Laura Harmon, commented, ‘”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.” She added, “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.”

Stories like this generate a lot of press coverage in Irelan, where English language teaching is now big business.This country of 5 million people now has 100,000 visa students – the equivalent of 1.3 million students turning up in the UK , or some 7 million arriving in the US. School closures and stranded students always hit the headlines.

But following the ICOS press release there was not a peep from the Irish Independent or even the Galway City Tribune. 

We called the agent to find out what happened, but again received no reply. When we checked with MEI they confirmed schools have been found for all the stranded Spaniards.

The message is clear: if you are an overseas student in trouble in Ireland – call ICOS.

Image courtesy of StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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