A-Level results: Alternative routes to further education choices

  • Full-time professional footballer, Bobby Burns, is currently studying an Open Degree in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, and is encouraging all NI students opening their A-Level results today to realise the "different routes" they can go down in their further education choices. 

    Bobby was studying for a degree in Business Management but switched to an BSc (Hons) Open degree in STEM through the Open University.

    The 21-year-old currently plays for Glentoran and plans to use his degree to move into the business side of the football industry as an alternative to being on the pitch.

    “Studying fits in with my timetable as a full-time footballer as I can do it after training. Sometimes it is challenging but as long as I've planned well in advance and prepare properly, I have time to do it," he said. 

    "I train from 9am to 1pm so I've plenty or free time afterwards. It’s just about not leaving it to the last minute on busy weekends when there’s matches – and doing the work at the start of the week to get it done. Quite a few players have an Open University degree, the travelling provides a good time to do it - on long bus journeys it’s always quiet at the back of the bus which is great for getting out the laptop and a book. You have to just squeeze in the time and be disciplined!”

    According to findings from the Open University, some 31% of students intending to go to university have a passion project that already makes them income, and 40% have ambitions to turn this into a career.

    One in every four are sharpening their entrepreneurial skills with a part-time job and a passion project all connected to their choice of degree.

    John D’Arcy, Director of The Open University in Ireland said: “The last year has amplified this generations concerns about money and jobs, young people are hungrier than ever to make up for lost time after a year indoors. With many approaching higher education having already plugged into their hobbies and turned it into a profitable enterprise, they're ahead of the game and have created businesses to make money doing what they love.”

    The Open University has been ranked No.1 university for Overall Student Satisfaction in Northern Ireland for the 17th year in a row in the National Student Survey 2021, underlining the growing popularity for distance learning, particularly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    The college has seen a 35% rise in its number of new students registering over the past year.

    In terms of actual student numbers, the total number of all students in Northern Ireland for 2020/21 is up 18% on last year to over 5,300 including undergraduates and postgraduates, as remote learning and working from home became the norm throughout lockdown.

    The coronavirus crisis has also significantly increased the demand for upskilling and reskilling, emphasising the attractiveness of high-quality online studying, cited the university.

    Economy Minister Gordon Lyons also met with students at the Limavady Campus of North West Regional College today, to discuss alternative routes into higher education. 

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

    Chief Executive and Principal of North West Regional College, Leo Murphy said: “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."

    To find out more information about the higher education options at local FE Colleges visit www.furthereducationni.com.

    To find out more about the Open University visit https://www.open.ac.uk/  

    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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