30 August, 2009 - Minister O'Keeffe plans to establish 'Q Mark' for colleges and language schools

'New structures to draw more overseas students as international market swells' - Minister

The Minister for Education and Science, Batt O'Keeffe TD, has announced plans to establish a
Quality Mark for English language schools and further and higher education colleges as part of
efforts to get more overseas students to study here.

Minister O'Keeffe said it was his intention to introduce statutory provision for the 'Q Mark' for
international education by the end of next year and qualifying international education programmes
could use it in marketing their courses.

The 'Q Mark' would be awarded to colleges complying with a statutory code of practice requiring,
among other things, that all courses be quality-assured to a high standard;
course entry requirements, including those relating to English language proficiency, be clearly
stated; a high proportion of international students undertake exams and achieve awards within the
advertised timeframe of courses; and the needs of international students be met including those
relating to tuition fees, access to information and grievance procedures.

'Our efforts to promote Irish education overseas must be backed up by a strong regulatory regime
that reassures overseas students that our international education courses are high quality and that
so-called "rogue" colleges can't operate,' said Minister O'Keeffe.

He said the 'Q Mark', which will require legislation, would strengthen existing regulation of colleges
enrolling international students and replace the existing Internationalisation Register.

But while legislation is being prepared for the 'Q Mark', the criteria for including full-time
programmes for international students on the Internationalisation Register will be tightened up.

The National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, and subsequently the amalgamated qualifications
body announced as part of last year's Budget, will be given the role of regulating international
education programmes.

'As well as that, I'm announcing the setting up of new structures to develop, promote and regulate
international education here in line with the Government's 'smart' economy plan.

'The international education sector contributes €900 million to the Irish economy each year and
supports thousands of Irish jobs.

'Yet Ireland attracts less than 1pc of the international student cohort.

'With international student numbers expected to rise by 300pc over the next 15 years, Ireland
should be better positioned to capture a far greater share of that high-growth global market.

'So to that end, I'm putting in place the new structures to kick-start an enhanced strategy for
attracting international students to Ireland,' said Minister O'Keeffe.

Enterprise Ireland will now take responsibility for marketing and promoting the 'Education Ireland'
brand overseas and Fáilte Ireland will continue to develop and promote the English language sector.

Finally, Minister O'Keeffe will establish a high-level group in the autumn to drive the international
education agenda under the chairmanship of his Department and bringing together key Government
departments and agencies involved with the education providers.

The group will develop a target-led and timelined strategy for building Ireland's international
education sector.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will publish proposals later this week on the
reform of the regulatory environment for student immigration as part of a joint Government approach.

Minister O'Keeffe said his Department will co-operate closely with the Department of Justice,
Equality and Law Reform in strengthening the student immigration process in the future.

'The long-term benefits of developing the international education sector in Ireland are immense.

'Today's foreign students will become tomorrow's business-leaders and decision-makers.

'It's vital that we cultivate our networks of influence overseas and students educated here will be our
ambassadors on foreign shores,' said Minister O'Keeffe.