Further Education Colleges call on school leavers to consider alternative routes to higher education

Northern Ireland’s six regional Further Education Colleges are encouraging school leavers to consider alternative routes to Higher Education and university during A-level and GCSE results week.

Across the Colleges, hundreds of opportunities are open to learners seeking Higher Level options including Foundation degrees, Higher Level Apprenticeships and HNDs in subjects such as Accountancy, Business Studies, Health and Life Sciences and Hospitality.

Recently, with backing from the Department for the Economy, the six Colleges launched the new Advanced Technical Award and Traineeships aimed at helping school leavers acquire new professional and technical skills in a range of vocational sectors.

The awards aim to address the growing skills gap in Northern Ireland and provide students with knowledge and skills for entering work, as well as opportunities to progress to further study, including Higher Level Education. The new awards are available in a wide range of subjects including IT, Health and Social Care, Applied Science, Construction, Engineering and Business and Finance.

A new partnership with Northern Ireland’s universities is also aimed at ensuring school leavers are made aware of the full range of alternative routes to degree at the regional Colleges. School leavers who do not receive an offer from a Northern Ireland university will be directed to dedicated web pages to signpost them towards other provisions, including Foundation degrees and Higher Education courses at the Further Education Colleges.

Chair of the Further Education Colleges Principal’s Group, Ken Webb said:

“The courses and opportunities on offer this year to school leavers who choose to study at their local Further Education college are first-class and offer a promising next step in their education.

“As happens every year, there will be young people who may be feeling lost and disappointed on results day if they do not get the university place they had hoped for. Our message to those young people is there are alternative routes to that university degree at your local college and they can still reach their end destination by taking on a higher education course or foundation degree in college first.

“Our ability to create courses in collaboration with industry, means that our learners leave college with the professional and technical qualifications they need to go straight into well-paid jobs and promising careers, or progress onto university with a well-rounded qualification already. Our accessibility means we are open to all kinds of learners from school leavers to those looking to re-skill or re-train.”

Shauna Daly, a student at South West College progressing to Queen’s University said:

“Attending my local college has given me the foundation to begin my chosen career path in Nursing. Without South West College, I doubt I would be in the position I am with an offer to study Children’s Nursing at Queen’s University Belfast and I think that my time at college has been invaluable. 

“Further Education offers you the opportunity to learn in a completely different atmosphere than school, where you still enjoy great support from your lecturers, but in a much more relaxed, student centric environment. Being able to study the course I wanted to do, and have it based around my learning needs really helped me attain my goals.

“Further Education worked for me, and I would encourage all those leaving school this year to look at what options are available at your local college. An insightful, close to home, fun learning experience is on offer which will set you up for your next step in education.”