Accessible and Affordable Higher Education Options at Northern Regional College


Getting a qualification can improve your career prospects and even be the difference between remaining stuck in an employment rut and landing your dream job. Northern Regional College and its higher education partners, including professional bodies on both sides of the border, has extended its offering of accessible and affordable higher education options, making it easier to get a nationally accredited qualification.

Higher education courses at the College’s campuses in Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine, Magherafelt and Newtownabbey include Higher Level Apprenticeships (HLAs), Foundation Degrees and Degrees, and for mature students looking to return to education on either a full time or part time basis, the Access to University course can be an ideal stepping stone.

Professor Terri Scott, Chief Executive and Principal of Northern Regional College says the programmes have been carefully selected to represent real value and a number of new courses have been introduced to reflect the needs of both students and employers.

“For example, in addition to the wide range of Foundation Degree programmes validated by Ulster University, we are now offering a full time Foundation Degree in Early Childhood Studies at both our Trostan Avenue and Newtownabbey campuses. On successful completion, students can go into the second year of the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies course at Stranmillis University College.”

Professor Scott adds that applications to this Foundation degree are through UCAS and even if students haven’t already applied, it not too late to apply as they could still be offered a place through clearing in August.

Another new programme introduced for the 2018-19 academic year is the BSc (Hons) in Health and Social Care at Newtownabbey which is being delivered in partnership with Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT).  

Professor Scott continues: “Some programmes, for example, HLAs in Accountancy, Computing and Engineering, allow students to ‘earn as they learn’ and they complete the course with a nationally recognised professional qualification but without the burden of student debt.

The HLA in Accountancy is recognised by Accounting Technicians Ireland and Chartered Accountants Ireland and former students have used it as an alternative route to becoming a chartered accountant.

Laura Todd from Ballycastle has just come through first year of the HLA Accountancy programme with flying colours. She is now on track to fulfil her dream of becoming a chartered accountant. Laura is currently employed by Coleraine accountancy firm Irwin Donaghey and says she would have no hesitation recommending the course to anyone interested in pursuing a career in the finance sector.

“The HLA programme gives you an opportunity to apply theory to practice so it’s a great way to learn. And of course a big plus is that when I complete my HLA, I will have a professionally recognised qualification but without the debt that I could have run up if I’d gone to university.”

Studying part-time at Northern Regional College while working with Triangle Housing Association in Ballymoney re-enforced the importance of education for Kilrea mother of two, Breena Hasson. She completed a Foundation Degree in Building Technology and Management at the College’s Coleraine campus last year and graduating with Distinction.

Breena says it was a golden opportunity to get a housing related qualification and being able to do the course ‘on her doorstep’ was an added bonus.

“I am very fortunate to work for an organisation who promote, encourage and finance professional development so when I was given the opportunity to get a relevant professional qualification, I jumped at it.

Another mature student to benefit from the flexible learning options available at Northern Regional College is Carrickfergus woman, Dawn Harrison. Having returned to College in her ‘fifties, Dawn is now a step closer to a new career as a counsellor. Last year, she completed an Access Diploma in Social Sciences and Creative Arts at the Newtownabbey campus. She graduated with Distinction, which gave her the entry requirements to do a Foundation Degree in Counselling.

“I left school at 16 and trained as a hairdresser. A few years ago, I did a part time counselling course and really enjoyed it but couldn’t go any further because I didn’t have any formal qualifications. Doing the Access Diploma helped change my life by giving me an opportunity to train as a counsellor.

 “It was a great stepping stone for me. Because I’d been away from school for so long, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to cope but the lecturers were brilliant and helped to build up my confidence.

Dawn completed the Access Diploma with distinction. She has just finished the first year of a Foundation Degree in Counselling at the College’s Ballymena campus and says she’s enjoying a break over the summer before getting back to the books again in September.


With so many higher education options available today, Dr Laura Firth, Head of Student Experience at Northern Regional College, gives a timely reminder to potential students of the real benefits of studying higher education at Northern Regional College.


“FE Colleges offer real alternatives to those who want to stay local and access the wide range of courses on offer. Northern Regional College offers smaller class sizes in comparison to traditional university lectures and our students receive weekly support via group tutorials or one to one sessions if needed. Whatever your career aspirations, we have a course for you and our professional careers advisors are here to help with your career planning to ensure you choose what is the right course for you.

“Remember though that places on many of our courses will fill up quickly and you can apply now before the results come out in August.

School leavers intending to study at a third level institution next academic year are reminded that they can apply for loans to cover tuition fees and living costs. Additional support is available for students with dependants. For more information on how to apply, visit Student Finance Northern Ireland. Funding is also available for part-time study.


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