INIS clarifies attendance and expulsion guidelines
This Irish immigration service (INIS) has posted the information below at its website to extend previous guidance to colleges on implementation of the Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP). This notice follows concerns reported by ICOS and directly by students.
Expulsion of English language Students - INIS Guidelines for Providers December 2015
INIS has become aware of issues surrounding the expulsion of non-EEA students for non attendance at courses. In the interests of students and providers the following guidelines have been drawn up.
ILEP Requirements on Absenteeism and Expulsion
The existing guidelines to providers seeking inclusion on the Interim List of Eligible Programmes state the following.
"Absenteeism and Expulsion: The policy and procedure must describe the steps which are taken and by whom in the case of an absent student. It must be clear at which point in this procedure that steps for expulsion of the student are activated and by whom; all standard correspondence as part of this process must be retained and be available on request to relevant internal personnel and external authorities. Absenteeism and expulsion procedures must be implemented in a timely manner, i.e. the disciplinary action must follow immediately after the absenteeism issue has been identified by management. It is not acceptable that non-EEA students are expelled towards the end of their programmes in relation to issues identified at an earlier point in the programme."
However this does not prescribe the policy to be adopted other than the fact that disciplinary action should be taken in a timely manner and that the process is fully documented.
A non-EEA student is a consumer and entitled to protection as such. The student is also a person who has obtained immigration permission on the basis that they are attending a course of study. If they are not attending their classes then their immigration status is liable to be revoked. They are also receiving a service that is delivered to a classroom of other consumers. It is the nature of a classroom that students are interdependent and should progress together. The progress of those attending regularly cannot be unduly disrupted to cater for bringing a student who has been missing classes up to speed with his or her classmates.
In the circumstances it is legitimate for a college to operate an expulsion policy provided that the policy is fair to the student and is outlined clearly to that student before they enrol.
- The disciplinary system which may ultimately lead to expulsion must be clearly laid out in writing, including the issue of forfeiture of fees
- It should be communicated to the student in a language that he or she can reasonably be expected to understand
- Save in the case of most serious events, e.g. where the student has engaged in violent conduct against the staff or fellow students, it must be progressive with the student receiving a number of warnings before the expulsion step is taken
- The student should have recourse to some form of appeal or review
Attendance Requirements under the ILEP
Under the ILEP the following attendance requirements have been set out for English Language Students.
"Providers offering English language programmes which are eligible for inclusion in the Interim List must:
1. enrol a maximum of no more than 15 students per class, i.e. each student is enrolled for the duration of the programme and registered for a specific class. Students cannot change classes during the course, or attend any classes other than the one for which they are registered for the duration of the programme;
2. have mandatory attendance requirements of a minimum 85% attendance for all enrolled students. The system of taking and recording attendance must be documented and publicly available. Where a student has 25% or more uncertified absence in the first six weeks of their programme, this must be communicated to the GNIB and INIS. Where a student cannot make up attendance to a minimum of 85% before the programme ends the student must be informed that they do not meet the attendance requirements and this fact will be communicated to the GNIB and INIS. There is no mechanism permitted whereby students can make up an uncertified absence(s) through additional classes, either during or post the end of the programme;"
It should be noted that the 85% attendance requirement is over the length of the course rather than on a per week or per month basis and a certain amount of leeway is permissible for the student in line with the above guidelines.
The most important element in addressing non attendance is that it be communicated without delay to the Immigration authorities (GNIB and INIS). This applies whether or not the Provider is seeking an ILEP listing and irrespective of the disciplinary/expulsion policy in place.
The following practices are absolutely forbidden
- Seeking payment from students in return for altering their attendance records or not notifying the immigration authorities of non attendance (any student faced with such a demand should report it immediately and confidentially to the immigration authorities).
- Using premature expulsion as a means of freeing up more classes for future enrolment.