2020 has been a strange time for students at all stages of their educational journey, but as we reach a time of the year that is traditionally a crossroads in the lives of those leaving secondary school, the differences between previous years and now may feel particularly pertinent. In the lead up to A Level and GCSE results days, Way out West is looking at the Higher Education and Undergraduate opportunities available at South West College. We’ll also be analysing the benefits of studying local, and hearing from recent students who chose South West College for their undergraduate studies.

For a long time, Higher Education and University were thought of as one and the same, with any educational path other than university considered a back up option and not for students with a history of getting the best results possible. Certainly for Clodagh Devlin, who achieved 5 A*s in a string of exceptional GCSE results at the Loreto Convent Grammar School, Omagh, and then carried on to her A Level's, University seemed inevitable.

However, finishing your A-Level's can often mean that having been on an educational conveyor belt since primary school, you have now reached a stage where for the first time you're next step hasn't been decided for you, and you're free to look at your options and decide for yourself what you want to do next.

For Clodagh, this freedom meant that despite achieving successful grades at A-Level, and receiving an offer to study History, Politics and International Studies at Queens University Belfast, she decided that University wasn't the right next step for her. Instead, she took on a work placement in order to try and decide what area of study she should pursue. It was during this placement that she discovered the Foundation Degrees on offer at South West College.

By studying on a part time basis I was able to learn at my own pace, while also balancing my studies with my work life.

Further Education Colleges have emerged as an alternative to University for people like Clodagh in recent years. Primarily, this alternative has come in the form of apprenticeships, as people are beginning to see that degrees and apprenticeships are no longer two completely separate journeys, but merely different paths. However, Further Education Colleges can also provide options when it comes to full time studying, and just like with apprenticeships, these full time courses provide new and emerging opportunities and advantages, which is what Clodagh discovered.

Clodagh says: ‘After some research I decided I would do the Business Services Management Foundation Degree at South West College Omagh from 2014 until 2016 on a part-time basis.

‘Throughout the two years, we studied various modules such as marketing, finance, law, e-businesses, management, businesses in the regional economy, which gave us a great insight into all of the different areas of business that you could pursue career-wise, as well as enabling us to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to work within the business sector. This was then enhanced through a 12 week work placement at the end of the course.'

After completing the two-year Foundation Degree at South West College in Omagh, Clodagh went on to study a Business Administration degree from September 2016 until January 2018 in Dungannon, again on a part-time basis.

'My experience at South West College was nothing but positive and I will continue to highly recommend it to others due to the wide variety of courses and the fact that there is something on offer for everyone.

'By studying on a part time basis I was able to learn at my own pace in conjunction with balancing my work life. My tutors were a constant support and great mentors throughout the two years and by studying within a smaller group setting with experienced, well-informed and encouraging tutors, the education and teaching provided was second to none.'

Clodagh's course allowed her to keep her options open. She says: 'I would thoroughly recommend anyone to undertake a business course, particularly if someone like myself is unsure of what to study as it is an open-ended course which can provide the many skills needed for a career in business that can stretch across any sector or industry.'