A new strategy to increase the number of international students coming to Ireland has been launched by the Government.

The aim is to increase international students in higher education by 50%, or 12,000, and in English language schools by 25% over the next five years.

This would increase the value of the sector to the Irish economy by €300m to €1.2bn per year.

The strategy was published at Government Buildings this afternoon by Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Tánaiste Mary Coughlan and Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, who is to introduce new immigration rules to prevent abuse of the system.

The Tánaiste acknowledged that the targets were ambitious.

No Irish students would be displaced by extra foreign students, as the places would be self-funded, she added.