NI's FE colleges encourage students to stay close to home for study

  • Photo: Award-winning musician ROE credits her local FE college for helping in her music career

    The six further education (FE) colleges across Northern Ireland are encouraging prospective students to consider their wide range of courses post A-level, as they say staying “close to home to support families and the wider community has never been more important.”

    A spokesperson for the FE colleges said they are often “the more affordable option, with much lower tuition fees and students also have to option to live at home, reducing the substantial living and maintenance costs that come with moving away.”

    Local musician ROE studied for a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Music, followed by a Higher National Certificate in Music at her local FE college.

    She has since won the Northern Ireland Music prize for Best Emerging Artist, performed on the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury, and supported Snow Patrol and Robbie Williams on tour.

    ROE said that her college greatly supported her: “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.”

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    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. 

    A spokesperson added that the further education sector currently delivers around 18% of all higher education provision in Northern Ireland. They explained the various levels of courses available to students:

    “Foundation degrees (completed in two years full-time, or three years part-time) combine hands-on practical learning with academic study which can later be topped up to a full degree. 

    “Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) and Higher National Certificates (HNDs) focus on 'learning by doing', specified skills for a particular job. 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. They are work-based programmes that enable participants to earn while they learn, while gaining a recognised Level 5 qualification. Courses are funded by the Department for the Economy so students don’t have to pay tuition fees.”

    The colleges will be running online information sessions for students receiving A-level and Leaving Certificate exam results, and who need support and guidance with their next career move.  Contact your local college for further details.

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    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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