Learner Protection, sometimes called Protection for Enrolled Learners (PEL) or Protection for Learner, provides security for students and their course fees in the unlikely event that their school or college close. In order to sell courses to students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), education providers must have Learner Protection. This is an Irish Immigration requirement.
All courses with public universities and colleges have secure Learner Protection. However, some private colleges offer no meaningful form of Learner Protection, and students at these colleges will simply lose their fees if they close because there is no right to transfer to another college or to receive a refund.
Types of Learner Protection
There are three main kinds of learner protection for courses with private colleges that ICOS believes are of value:
- Protection provided through QQI for the further and higher education programmes it accredits (formerly FETAC and HETAC).
- Protection provided by groups of colleges - MEI for some English language schools and HECA for some private Higher Education providers.
- An enrolled learner protection bond, which is a special type of insurance policy that can be issued to individual students by some private colleges. Cover will require an additional payment unless it is included in the course fee. In all cases, a student can expect to receive a personal policy document as confirmation.
Ask a college whether it offers any form of learner protection for your course and what type of protection it is. Make sure you get an explanation in writing of what happens if the college closes or if it cannot deliver the course you have paid for some other reason.
Checking Learner Protection
Advice from the Irish immigration service (INIS) has emphasised the importance of students getting written details of any learner protection arrangements being promised by a college:
"NOTE: Students are strongly advised to carefully consider the college at which they are seeking to enrol. Students should fully satisfy themselves of the Protection for Learner arrangements in place at the college and should seek details of those arrangements in writing."
Ask a college whether it offers any form of learner protection for your course and what type of protection it is. Make sure you get an explanation in writing of what happens if the college closes or if it cannot deliver the course you have paid for for some other reason.
Especially if you are paying fees well in advance, another important thing to understand clearly is whether protection of fees begins at the time of paying for a course or only at a later time, such at the point of starting your studies, or at the time of having an enrolled learner protection bond issued.
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