PCN – Promoting Ireland as the High-Quality Education Destination it is

July 5, 2023

In 2014 the Progressive College Network (PCN) formed to meet the demand for an alternate representative body for the private college community in Ireland; specialising in teaching English as a foreign language. Ireland’s English language education (ELE) sector is of major importance, worth an estimated €1.2bn to the Irish economy per annum. The sector is a key employer of teachers and provides guests for host families, hostels etc. Most ELE providers are private companies, some being family-owned ventures with long histories. Ireland is in a primary location and, as of quite recently, the only English-speaking country in Europe. The UK has for the most part removed itself from the ELE market, so Ireland’s main competitors in the ELE sphere are currently Canada, the USA, Australia and Malta. Despite formidable competition, we are in fact punching well above our weight as many international students choose to come to our little island ahead of other places. There are a few reasons for this, one of which is definitely not the weather!
From the outset PCN’s objective has been to promote quality among members and ensure that students attending PCN institutions have the best
experience possible during their time in Ireland. PCN promotes Ireland as the premium education destination it is.

PCN recognises and embraces that ELE is not simply about teaching students English and sending them home; it is a whole spectrum of activities, which entails a lot of work and collaboration with various stakeholders. It is about the entire student journey, including initial contact with prospective student(s), providing information, course details and prices, answering questions, airport pickups, helping students find
accommodation (which in today’s climate is not the easiest of tasks), assistance with opening bank accounts, and additionally providing information relating to visa applications, PPS numbers etc. It is the role of ELE providers to help students achieve their academic goals in the form of examinations and qualifications, as well as indicating pathways to follow to proceed to universities/third-level providers with a view to furthering their education and careers.
ELE providers must do all the aforementioned, while also offering tours, excursions, free classes, teaching about Irish history and culture, and
being a shoulder to cry on if that’s what the students need.
While many ELE providers rely heavily on agents, which are often located
abroad, to sell courses, most PCN members have their own marketing and sales teams, so are self-reliant and responsible for promoting and advertising themselves via professional and well-run social media campaigns and activities. Prospective students can get in touch directly with PCN member schools and engage via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, websites and email.
Public policy has proven to be a key activity of PCN from the outset. We recognise that for the good of students, staff and the ELE sector as a whole,
it is imperative to engage with TDs, ministers and government departments.
The International Education Mark (IEM) has been in the pipeline for around a decade and is much anticipated by the ELE sector. PCN support the
introduction of this quality mark. If and when it sees light, however, it must be fit for purpose. Quality and Qualifications
Ireland (QQI) has recently published
White Paper documents for public
consultation, but unfortunately key
information is still missing.

Learner protection was introduced in the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act to protect students from school closure. This was in response to numerous schools closing over the past decade, leaving students without a course or course fees, and teachers with unpaid wages. In the wake of these school closures, insurance products have been introduced that comprehensively protect students and
their fees.
PCN, working closely with our insurer, Academy+, has been instrumental in developing and introducing a bespoke combined learner protection and medical insurance product, which not only protects students but also protects teachers’ salaries. This means that in the unlikely event of a PCN institution closing, every student is assured of continuing studies and (very importantly) teachers earnings are protected. This is first time in Ireland
that private sector employers are actively protecting the salaries of staff.
This is something PCN is very proud of and something we will fight to maintain. PCN remain, committed to the betterment of the sector and promoting Ireland on the international stage.

For further information please feel free to contact:
David Russell, Chairman, Progressive College Network,

Website: www.pcn.ie • Email: info@pcn.ie

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