When students ask us about getting a refund, usually we can only answer with bad news. Most students affected by the closures had no form of ‘learner protection’ after paying fees to their private colleges.
The colleges that have closed have all been ‘private limited companies’. Generally, when a limited company closes owing money, the directors can walk away from the debts, however big, because they have been run up in the name of the company, not by the directors as individuals. Directors will only become personally liable if it can be shown that they have run the company in a fraudulent or reckless fashion. A lot of strong evidence is needed to prove this.
Closed colleges which have entered liquidation have declared debts of up to 20 times the value of the company’s assets. If debts are 20 times assets, this means that when the liquidator has recovered all the money they can by selling off things like computers and furniture, there would only be enough money to cover 5% of the total of what is owed to all the creditors. But from a student perspective the story does not end there: under Irish law, taxes and wages have to be paid first, before any other debt (Revenue and employees are ‘priority’ creditors). Usually these are both big debts that, on their own, will be more than the assets recovered. Students can realistically expect to receive nothing at all.
In Ireland, a liquidation process takes at least a year – and often much longer. In any case where the liquidator can pursue directors for their personal assets to increase the amount of money available to pay creditors, students will have an even longer wait for the outcome – and may still get nothing.
Quite simply, students cannot make any plans based on the idea that they might receive some form of refund to pay for another course. Most will receive nothing.
ICOS has had to explain this situation to countless students for whom their losses mean broken dreams and real hardship. It is terrible news to deliver to one person, let alone hundreds.
Many students struggle to believe they can have lost their money and that they have no protection in such a situation. Understandably, they feel let down by Irish law and the Irish government response over what has happened.
* Students who paid fees on a credit or debit card classes may have had additional rights following a closure through chargeback. However, there is a time limit on all such claims.