The Government hopes to increase the number of international students choosing to study in Ireland by over 25% in the next four years.

The sector is currently worth more than €1.5bn to the Irish economy.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton launched the International Education Strategy this morning.

The strategy aims to increase the sector to more than €2bn by 2020.

Speaking ahead of the announcement, Mr Bruton said: "As a small, open trading economy we must continue to diversify our economy.

"International students, once they graduate, have a very strong role to play in helping Irish exporting companies to internationalise further and reach new markets through their links to their home countries."

The strategy will allocate funding for promotional and marketing activity in key markets such as the US, China, India, and Brazil.

It aims to attract an additional 37,000 international students over the next four years, bringing the total number to 176,000.

Almost half of the sector's current economic value is contributed by students attending private colleges which cater specifically for international students.

These colleges teach English as a foreign language as well as courses in areas such as business or tourism.

The industry has been beset by scandal in recent years, as a number of colleges closed abruptly owing large sums of money to students.

Many of those students, from countries such as India and Brazil, lost fees of up to €5,000.

The Department of Education said it is satisfied new regulations have addressed the problem of rogue operators.