At this time of year, thousands of local students and their parents are contemplating a crossroads in their lives.

Exams are pending and pivotal decisions are about to be taken, that will shape future lives and careers.

Many will choose degree study, but for others, the attraction of a University equivalent course at South West College has never been more appealing.

At South West College (SWC) students can choose from a range of full-time and part-time Higher Education Undergraduate courses, across a number of curriculum areas in levels such as Higher Level Apprenticeships, Higher National Diplomas, Higher National Certificates and Foundation Degrees. Completion of these vocationally led courses often results in direct employment, continued education and training, or they serve as a stepping stone to a Full Honours Degree.

Working in partnership with local Universities and employers, SWC offers a range of Higher Education 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

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. All Foundation Degrees are accredited by the Ulster University or Queen’s University Belfast and all have direct articulated pathways to honours degrees at each respective university. Foundation Degrees are also widely recognised as providing a robust platform for candidates seeking employment.

Higher National Diplomas/Certificates

Higher National Diplomas and Higher National Certificates are a popular option also. HNCs and HNDs focus on 'learning by doing' providing skills that can be used in a particular job. They are highly valued by employers and can also count towards membership of professional bodies and other employer organisations. HNCs take one year to complete full-time and two years part-time. HNDs take two years full-time and can also be taken part-time, which takes longer.

Higher Level Apprenticeships

Most recently, SWC has been part of a new wave of learning through the introduction of Higher Level Apprenticeships (HLAs). 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.

Higher Education on your doorstep

There are many reasons why studying locally makes sense. As well as the extensive range of courses, students are also attracted by a number of other benefits from opting for College over University.  Many students prefer the smaller class numbers, and the benefit of added individual hours with lecturers and tutors. Studying an undergraduate course at SWC is also a more affordable option, with much lower tuition frees. Students also have to option to live at home, reducing the substantial living and maintenance costs that come with moving away.

SWC also focuses time and energy into improving the health and wellbeing of students, recognising the positive impact this can have on study and future success. The College’s thriving student services facilities offers a number of extracurricular activities as well as advice and support on careers, student finance, safeguarding, learning support and equality.

For further information on higher education options at South West College, please drop into your local campus in Dungannon, Enniskillen or Omagh on Tuesday, November 20 at 5.30pm or log on to