The message to stay close to home to support families and the wider community has never been more important. That’s exactly what thousands of students do each year by choosing their local Further Education (FE) College for post A-Level and Leaving Cert study.
This is a crucial time of year for many students, pivotal decisions are being taken that will shape future lives and careers. The six NI Further Education Colleges, North West Regional College, Northern Regional College, South West College, Southern Regional College, South Eastern Regional College, and Belfast Metropolitan College, offer a nearer to home option that can help make career ambitions a reality.
There are many reasons why studying a university standard Higher Education (HE) course locally makes sense. As well as the extensive range of courses available, FE colleges are often the more affordable option, with much lower tuition frees. Students also have the option to live at home, reducing the substantial living and maintenance costs that come with moving away.
Award winning musician ROE, who recently supported Snow Patrol and Robbie Williams on tour, chose her local FE college to study for a Higher National Certificate in Music. The straight A’s Grammar school student, who was the winner of the Northern Ireland Music prize for Best Emerging Artist, and last year performed on the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury, chose FE for her post 16 studies with a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Music, and continued her education with a HNC. ROE said the support she received at her local FE college was pivotal in helping to shape her music career.
She added: “The Music department were so supportive to me. They helped me develop myself as a musician and I felt like I could always go to them for advice and guidance. It’s helped me become a better musician by giving me the experience I needed and helped me meet so many of the people who have supported me throughout my career so far.”
Across the six Colleges, students can choose from range of full and part time HE courses, including Higher Level Apprenticeships, Higher National Diplomas, Higher National Certificates and Foundation Degrees. Completion of these vocationally led courses often lead to direct employment, continued education and training, or they serve as a stepping stone to a Full Honours Degree.
Working in partnership with local Universities, FE Colleges offer a range of professional and technical options – focussed on meeting the needs of the regional economy. Indeed, the further education sector currently delivers around 18% of all higher education provision in Northern Ireland.
Foundation Degrees (completed in 2 years full time, or 3 years part time) combine hands on practical learning with academic study which can later be topped up to a full degree.
Higher National Diplomas (HND) and Higher National Certificates (HND) focus on 'learning by doing' providing skills that can be used in a particular job and are highly valued by employers. Students traditionally progress to employment or full Degree study.
Higher Level Apprenticeships (HLAs) are open to Post ‘A’ Level students and those who have undertaken Level 3 qualifications. HLAs allow students to jointly study and work in paid employment in their chosen profession. The HLA is a unique work based programme that enables participants to earn while they learn, while gaining a recognised Level 5 qualification. Courses are funded by the Department for the Economy so students never have to worry about tuition fees.
FE Colleges will be running online information sessions for students receiving A Level and Leaving Certificate examinations results, and who need support and guidance with their next career move. Contact your local College for further details.