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Private College Network allege unfair practice by state agencies

The Private College Network, a newly formed representative body for several of Ireland’s private colleges, jointly meeting the education needs of over 3,000 students, is to lodge a formal complaint on behalf of its members to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. The complaint alleges unfair and anti-competitive practices by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), the Department of Justice and other State sponsored organisations.

The Private College Network says that its member colleges promoting English language education courses and qualifications are being discriminated against by state sponsored organisations and QQI. There is undue promotion within the sector of colleges represented by Marketing English in Ireland (MEI). Coupled with an unexplained delay in implementation of the International Education Mark, this is causing a distortion in sales of English language courses to the detriment of colleges who are not MEI members. MEI is a private body representing a minority of colleges otherwise lawfully operating in the sector.

Members of the recently established Private College Network include private colleges with a common interest in promoting the education industry, in Ireland and abroad, and the promotion of improved standards of education and compliance within the Industry. Members include SEDA College, Limerick City College, NED Training Centre, International College of Technology, Cork City College, Citas College Dublin and Academic Bridge.

David Russell, Chairman of the Private College Network said: “We are bringing a case to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission on behalf of our members, all of whom are reputable and high quality colleges. Their businesses are now being put at risk due to the refusal of Quality and Qualifications Ireland to engage properly with us and which represents a serious shortcoming in QQI’s statutory duty to treat all parties equally.

“The refusal to engage by QQI is further compounded by the Department of Justice who are engaged in the regulatory reform of the English language education services sector. The Department has also refused to meet with members of the Private College Network despite repeated requests, but it has been discriminatory by consulting with colleges who have links to the Marketing English in Ireland Association and Fáilte Ireland.

“Our members are deeply committed to the highest quality standards of education provision and to the continuing enhancement of services in line with policy and regulation for the sector. This includes their intention to qualify for quality assurance accreditation to the required standards of the International Education Mark (IEM) administered by Quality and Qualifications Ireland. Our members are also seeking accreditation for English language courses that they are running. It is completely unacceptable that these legitimate intentions are being undermined by the actions of the State and its agencies.”

“We are asking both the Department of Justice and Quality and Qualifications Ireland to meet with the Private College Network and start a process of meaningful engagement with us immediately to resolve this matter,” said David Russell.