The Irish Council for Overseas Students has called for reforms to strengthen protections for foreign students hoping to study in Ireland.

Responding to an RTÉ News report that found sums totalling in excess of €100,000 owed to students abroad by one Irish private college, ICOS said the problem needed to be robustly addressed.

It said student confidence in Ireland had clearly been shaken and tougher enforcement would be key to rebuilding it.

ICOS Director Sheila Power said the money could be held in an account that is regulated or held by the State or by secure third parties such as banks.

More than 50 students in India, Nepal, Vietnam, Pakistan and the Philippines are owed tens of thousands of euro in fee refunds by Shelbourne College in Dublin.

The private college has blamed a difficult financial situation and said the students will be taken care of.

However, representatives for the students said they have been trying since last June to get their money refunded.

The Irish student visa system obliges many non-EU citizens who want to come to Ireland to study to pay fees to one of a number of approved colleges first.

Only then can these prospective students apply for an entry visa.

But if that visa application is rejected, applicants can find it difficult or even impossible to get their fees refunded.