skip to main content

A warm welcome to our Open University Course Information Event on Tuesday, May 30 at Strand Road campus.

25 May 2023
Woman sitting in office

We need to nurture and grow our own talent instead of watching our young people move away to study, keeping our fingers crossed that one day they will move back. These university courses offered in the North West are a fantastic opportunity for students to study locally while accessing our extensive learner support and guidance, excellent resources and staff expertise.

Violet Toland
Higher Education Curriculum Lead, NWRC

Violet Toland works in Quality Enhancement at North West Regional College as the Higher Education Curriculum Lead, she is also a Lecturer in Computing. In this article, she discusses a major new partnership between NWRC and The Open University (OU) supporting local learners with three new Higher Education courses at the college from September.

‘I grew up watching The Open University (OU) programmes on television.

That was the first time I had ever heard of The Open University. It’s a brand we have all grown up with and learned to trust.

Forty years later, and I am proud to be part of the team which has made North West Regional College’s (NWRC) ground-breaking partnership with the OU happen.

On Tuesday (May 30), NWRC will hold a course information event and it is an opportunity for local people to come along and find out more about new OU Higher Education courses which are being offered at our Strand Road Campus. During the event we will also officially cut the ribbon on our new OU office at Strand Road Campus.

The college is adding three new courses to its Higher Education portfolio in September 2023. Delivered through a mixture of face to face and blended teaching models, students can choose from a Foundation Degree in Cyber Security (full time and part time), Foundation Degree in Housing Practice, or Level 4 Higher Education Certificate in Healthcare Practice.

So why The Open University? For NWRC staff and students, it is a good fit, and while traditionally the OU was regarded as for those looking for a second chance at education, things have changed. In fact, more and more students aged between 17 and 25 are now enrolling with the OU because of the qualifications and progression routes on offer.

That is what NWRC is all about – offering students a level of appropriate choices. At all our campuses we welcome a diverse range of students – you might just be completing your A-Levels or equivalent, or perhaps you are that bit older, and you are looking to upskill or retrain.

We need a new mindset when it comes to Higher Education in our local community and region, removing barriers to education. One of the most discussed barriers to education tends to be age. It is never too late to retrain or change direction in your career choice. I did a Higher Education course in Counselling when I was in my 50s, because I thought why not? Learning is never about age – things change for people; children grow up and new opportunities for education emerge. Education is for everyone, at any stage in their life and this is something The Open University champions in its mission to be open to ‘people, places, methods and ideas’.

My own background is as a lecturer in Computing, but my passion is Education. I am a huge believer in lifelong learning. Since becoming Higher Education Curriculum Lead at NWRC two years ago my focus has been on working with The Open University to make this unique educational partnership happen.

What we have now are three programmes that are specific to the needs of the region and the people that live here, in the North West communities. The OU have brought flexibility and much needed course options that will support NWRC to address the skills gaps that can potentially lead to employment and I am proud of what this partnership has achieved.

The partnership is the culmination of extensive diligence and hard work from both organisations, as well as significant consultation with a number of local employers, over a two-year period.

It is an exciting time for Higher Education students in the North West, and there has never been a better time to make the decision to study locally.

NWRC is the first Third Level Education College in the North West to offer a Higher Education course in Cyber Security. Students who successfully complete the course can continue to study with the OU topping up to a full degree.

Additionally, our Level 5 Foundation Degree in Housing Practice is the first Higher Education course of its kind in Northern Ireland in over a decade, and it perfectly complements our level 3 Apprenticeship in this exciting area. The OU Level 4 Higher Education Certificate in Healthcare Practice is a direct pathway into a full degree in areas such as Nursing and Healthcare with the OU. NWRC is the sector hub lead for health and social care and this course opens a range of progression pathways for a career in a wide range of allied health professions.

These courses complement the excellent local university provision we already have in the North West. This partnership with OU is a strategic decision complementing the existing partnerships we have with other Higher Education Institutions and adding to our portfolio of courses, providing a more diverse offer related to areas of skills shortage. And we are delighted to be able to grow and develop our curriculum, offering something really different and much needed within the North West region.

Our partnership with The Open University has been a journey for everyone involved. NWRC was fully committed to offering courses that would not only expand their higher education offering, but also deliver even more for the local community.

We worked closely with the Open University and included students, staff, stakeholders, and local employers in every aspect of the partnership planning.

As a Lecturer in Computing, I am particularly excited about the Foundation Degree in Cyber Security because I have spoken with employers who previously had no local options for upskilling their staff in this field. This innovative course will allow learners to develop the knowledge and skills required to access the extensive career opportunities and progression pathways in this area. We have been delighted with the response since we opened our enrolments and applications are coming in at a steady pace.

We need to nurture and grow our own talent instead of watching our young people move away to study, keeping our fingers crossed that one day they will move back. These university courses offered in the North West are a fantastic opportunity for students to study locally while accessing our extensive learner support and guidance, excellent resources and staff expertise.

The talent is here but we need to nurture it. Only by providing opportunities locally will we persuade our young people to stay and generate new businesses and employment. The growth in home grown entrepreneurs that will support the development of our local economy is always at the forefront of the thinking within NWRC.

We are thrilled now to be working with the OU delivering a new era of university level education for local learners.

This partnership will leave a lasting legacy in the North West, and we are already planning new courses for September 2024, so watch this space.

We offer a warm welcome to our course information event on Tuesday, 30th May from 3pm-6pm at our Strand Road Campus.

  • These courses are open to anyone who is completing A-Levels or equivalent qualifications this summer, or has previously completed qualifications at this level (with the exception of the Level 4 Healthcare Practice option, which is open to individuals without A level equivalent, provided they have significant relevant prior experience in Healthcare).
  • Register to attend Note: These courses are subject to validation approval.
Graphic giving details on NWRC's Course Information Event
Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now