Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn has said a joint taskforce will meet on Friday to discuss how to help students affected by the closure of a number of English language schools.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Quinn said he took the matter very seriously and it was important to protect Ireland's reputation as a centre of excellence for education.

He said the taskforce needs to establish how many students were affected and if alternative places could be found for them.

Mr Quinn also said he wanted to assure students that their visa status would not be changed and the matter would be sorted out.

Meanwhile, students from the international colleges that closed suddenly in Dublin and in Cork protested today to draw attention to the difficulties they are facing.

Around 30 students gathered outside the office of the Irish Immigration and Naturalisation Service in Dublin city centre.

Some of them are concerned because they have lost their visas and because of that they are losing their part-time jobs too.

They have called on immigration services to answer the emails they are sending them as a matter of urgency.

They say the colleges that closed unexpectedly should refund their money so that they can pay for new courses to continue their studies.

Meanwhile, students at another college, also suspended from a list operated by immigration services, say they are fearful that their school may also close.

Management at BCT on Dublin's Parnell Square told RTÉ News they were very worried too.

They said they were doing their best to stay open, but they acknowledged that closure was a possibility.

The Irish Council for International Students has said the closure of the five English language schools reflects a poorly regulated private college sector.

ICOS has been helping the students by organising support and information meetings for them.

Director Sheila Power said talk of future tough enforcement on English language schools was no substitute for swift and compassionate measures to alleviate the distress of hundreds of displaced students.

She said the sudden cessation of trading of the colleges had shone a light on problems that had been known for many years.

Ms Power said they were not addressed by a quality mark system that was first discussed by the previous government.