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Colleges will be forced to declare who owns them

THE ownership of private international schools must be formally declared if they are to be approved to enrol non-EU students and provide them with working visas for Ireland.

The new rules follow a spate of scandals this year, where some schools were found to be operating as "visa factories" for foreign nationals.

In some cases it was found that attendance records were falsified.

Hundreds of foreign students were left out of pocket when schools began to close in a domino effect earlier this year.

In some cases, problems arose when international schools secretly shared ownership with others.

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Now the Department of Justice is planning to introduce a system that would mean the beneficial ownership - the person who profits from the school - would have to be identified.

It would also limit the number of courses that are eligible and require schools to provide a track record of delivery in the area of education.

The department is also planning to place limits on the amount of time students can work outside of school.

Officials are continuing to investigate a number of schools.

The department said in a statement: "Some of these investigations are at an advanced stage and we are committed to taking all appropriate actions to ensure the integrity of the immigration system."

Nine colleges have closed around the country over the last few months, for a variety of reasons.

The most recent was Leinster College, which closed last month for financial reasons.

Managing director Khan Salehin said the college would remain closed for at least a week due to the "weak financial situation".

The sudden closure of the college came as a blow to staff and students, many of whom were greeted with a similar written notice on the locked doors of the language college in Harcourt Street.

Speaking about the issue of such schools, Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan warned in September against rogue operators.

"We cannot let our international reputation be damaged by low-quality provision or rogue operators," she said.

She also praised the positive elements of properly-run schools in the sector.

hnews@herald.ie


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