The Government has announced changes to the system that allows non-EU citizens to come here to learn English in an effort to clamp down on abuses.

From January of next year only colleges that are recognised by Irish awarding bodies will be allowed to operate.

There will be a limited number of exceptions to this.

A stronger inspection regime is also promised and changes will be made to the amount of time that international students are allowed to work here. 

Minister for Education Jan O’ Sullivan said the international education sector was an extremely valuable one for Ireland - worth an estimated €800m.

She said it was clear that some operators had been abusing the regulatory system - providing low quality education and facilitating little more than access to the Irish labour market.

Currently there are 230 such colleges operating in Ireland.

Ms O’Sullivan said she envisaged that far fewer colleges would be allowed to operate after the first of January.

She said the Government wanted to get the word out internationally that this new regime was coming into place from January.

Speaking on RTÉ's News At One, Ms O'Sullivan said the new measures form a three-pronged approach that will ensure there will be a much stricter list of programmes that will be eligible for student immigration; there will be an inspection regime that will be strong; and the whole area of work concession is going to be reformed to prevent abuses of hours worked by students during holiday time. 

Meanwhile, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said the new system would involve more focused and coordinated inspections.

Asked about additional resources she said this was a high priority area and resources would be made available.