The exchange sector was undoubtedly one of the most affected by the pandemic and travel restrictions. It is estimated that Ireland will receive 120,000 fewer students this year compared to previous years, according to Marketing English in Ireland, an association of English schools. Another association, the Progressive College Network, is a little more optimistic, and estimates the drop to be around 75,000 students.
Ireland normally receives around 150,000 foreign students a year. That is, the drop can reach 80%.
The language teaching market contributes around 1.2 billion euros to the country’s economy, and generates around 10,000 direct and indirect jobs. But, due to the impact of the pandemic, the sector is at serious risk and has received little help from the government. Last month, a recovery plan was launched by industry representatives to try to save schools.
In an interview with The PIE News, PCN President David Russell said that most international students will choose not to travel to Ireland due to the mandatory 14-day quarantine. “This will have major consequences for the tourism sector, as host families, travel agencies and small businesses across the country are very dependent on foreign students,” said David.
So far, the number of schools that have closed their doors is still small, but the real damage may come to light when they reopen in August. “Most schools are offering online classes. If a school is not doing that, it is worrying, as I fear that once things are back to normal and we can reopen classrooms, some of these schools will simply not open anymore. “said David.
On July 16, Education Minister Simon Harris announced that “Ireland is absolutely open to international students”, despite the mandatory quarantine. He also said that his department’s priority is to get the largest number of students back to face-to-face classes, but the minister made no specific mention to English students.