Study in northern Ireland, a personalised experience
by Richard O'Hare

Higher education in Northern Ireland has existed for over 150 years. Throughout that time the sector has grown and developed, and today it plays a pivotal role in the creation of a sustainable knowledge-based economy and an inclusive society.

In the mid-19th Century, Queen Victoria founded Queen’s College in Belfast. In 1908, the College became a self-governing institution and was renamed the Queen’s University of Belfast. Parallel developments in Londonderry saw the opening of Magee College in 1865. Northern Ireland’s first teacher training college, St. Mary’s College, was established in 1900. Its second, Stranmillis College, opened its doors in 1922.

More recent developments saw the establishment of the University of Ulster, The Open University and the Ulster Polytechnic in the late 1960s and 1970s. In the 1990s, full-time higher education courses (HE in FE) were established in the majority of further education colleges (FECs) and part-time courses in all sixteen FECs. These were merged in 2007 into six regional colleges which now deliver the vast majority of higher national certificates, diplomas and foundation degrees. The expansion of higher education in the latter half of the 20th Century was driven by a variety of factors, including higher education policy, improvements in educational attainment and a growth in demand for graduate-level skills. These factors continue to be relevant today.

Higher education in Northern Ireland is delivered principally through two universities, Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and the University of Ulster (Ulster), and two University Colleges, St. Mary’s University College and Stranmillis University College. In academic year (AY) 2010/11, 52,000 students were enrolled at these four institutions. The Open University in Ireland also makes a significant contribution to the higher education sector, with 4,865 students from Northern Ireland enrolled in AY 2010/11. In addition, the six further education colleges deliver a broad range of higher education courses, with 11,005 students enrolled in AY 2010/11.

Student Satisfaction

Northern Ireland’s universities and university colleges have high levels of student satisfaction, with 83% declaring themselves satisfied with their course in the 2011 National Student Survey (NSS), which is consistent with the UK average. The Open University scored 93% in the 2014 NSS.

Professional Degree programs

If you are undertaking a professional graduate degree program, then note that you may need to get accreditation from the professional bodies back home once you return back home. It is best to contact the accreditation (regulating) body for your specific country prior to commencing your studies in the UK.

Information sourced from the British Council, Department of Employment and Learning etc

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