The Department of Justice has appealed to students and teachers working in the international English language education sector to come to them if they believe any college is engaging in bad practices or is in financial difficulties. 

It also said the recent closure of a number of private colleges catering for non-EU students has highlighted again the unacceptable manner in which part of the industry has been operating.

In a statement, the department said it was self-evident that for some of the businesses in the sector the primary service on sale was the facilitation of immigration.

It said many students and teachers had unfortunately become victims of what it called these disreputable enterprises.

It said it wanted to reassure genuine students attending recently closed colleges that all existing immigration permissions would be honoured.

It also said students would be entitled to work in accordance with the rules for student migration.

The department said the only solution to sorting out problems in the sector was extensive reform.

It said the implementation of reforms had been delayed by a High Court ruling in January but that amendments were now being finalised and would be brought to Government very shortly.

It said further measures were also being proposed to increase the protection for students and strengthen governance in the industry.

The department said students and teachers were well placed to provide, on a confidential basis, early warning of bad practice, financial difficulty and risks to student welfare.

Private college had debts of nearly €300k

Students and teachers belonging to a Dublin language college that closed suddenly last month have heard that the college has just €5,000 in assets but owes almost €300,000.

They were attending a liquidator's meeting that took place this morning.

The Department of Justice says the National College of Business Administration had more than 1,000 students on its books.

Some students paid fees to the college in the weeks and days before it closed.

NCBA Director Don McGuinness refused to take questions from the Irish Council for International Students, which was there representing students at the college.

He also refused to take questions from RTÉ News.

The meeting was so short, lasting just 15 minutes, that most of the students hoping to attend missed it.

The meeting heard that the NCBA owes €295,000 to the Revenue Commissioners, Dublin City Council, teachers who are owed wages, students and others.

However, it has nothing in the bank and assets worth just €5,000.

Students questioned how that could be possible when some of them had paid fees of thousands of euro directly to the college bank account in the weeks and even days before it closed.