Education: Do your research before choosing the university for you


One of the final instructions given to 13th grade students as they take their final exams in various sauna suites of poorly constructed classrooms is a wise reminder for career leaders to come back in September knowing what they are for. apply.

However, deciding where to go to college and what to study is not as easy as it used to be, or even as it could be. Nowadays, there is a plethora of similar courses, different fees, modes of attendance, study paths and of course grade inflation; this is where more and more students are getting top marks.

To start simply, there are two universities in NI, Queen’s and Ulster; what little we know. Students who live in NI or the Republic of Ireland pay £4,630 per year for undergraduate studies to attend one of these universities.

The same fees apply to students who are considered ‘established’ EU nationals, but apart from that, international fees apply. UK residents also pay a higher rate and there are sliding scales for work-study courses and internships with industry placements, but that’s a quick scan, research this area thoroughly and talk to advisers before applying . Like all finance, these fees and all fees are part of the student loan system.

With approximately 27,000 students spread across four main campuses and two outposts, Ulster University is the larger of the two universities in the province. QUB is just behind in the numbers game with nearly 25,000 students at its single campus in Belfast.

The four Ulster campuses are in Belfast, Coleraine, Derry-Londonderry and Jordanstown, the latter to be bulldozed once the Belfast site is completed/expanded. The University also has small campuses in London and Birmingham.

In terms of rankings, QUB leads, being ranked 38th in the UK in The Times/Sunday Times 2022 rankings, slightly ahead of Ulster which is 44th. All rankings should be taken with a grain of salt and within this ranking there are individual courses and departments that have their own rankings.

So what else is open to NI students? The two most obvious destinations are across the water or the Republic of Ireland. In England, Scotland or Wales the fee is £9,250 a year for undergraduate courses, while across the border they will pay a ‘contribution cost’ (because students R of I do not pay university fees) of €3,000.

Now we are getting into the gray areas. Going to study at one of Dublin’s four universities is quite common here, but be aware that there has been a bit of rebranding going on.

The city’s three higher education institutes have now joined forces and changed their name to ‘Dublin University of Technology’. The other three are “it was”, namely, Trinity, UCD and DCU. There are other “new” universities in Ireland, all mergers of smaller colleges, so be careful when googling them.

A curveball in these ‘new’ tech universities for students in Fermanagh must include our close neighbors in Sligo, namely the artist who was once known as the Sligo Institute of Technology.

Again, like TUD and 80s pop artist ‘Prince’, they are now known as something different, in the case of Sligo, ‘Atlantic Technological University’, a merger of the technological colleges of Sligo, Galway and Letterkenny.

There are approximately 20,000 students at this new multi-campus university and it is perfectly plausible for local students and those from bordering counties to travel daily and save what seems like a lifetime debt for accommodation costs.

The Sligo campus as it currently stands offers courses up to PhD level and is on the right hand side of Sligo for us, coming from Enniskillen.

A quick scan of their shiny new website shows degrees in accounting, sustainable building technology, sports, architecture, biomedial sciences, business, civil engineering, cybersecurity, computer science, creative design, engineering, environmental science, fine arts , forensics, health, nutrition, tourism, performing arts, pharmaceutical sciences, science, sociology and writing. . . and this is just a summary.

My only criticism of Sligo, or any other regional college or university for that matter, is that of academic strength. The best universities are in cities that are home to science parks, theaters, publishing, medical advances, and more.

No disrespect to Sligo, but a stroll through its narrow streets makes me wonder how many top academics in the aforementioned fields of study live in such a sparsely populated place and also so far from Belfast, Dublin or Cork. I have reservations, but if you don’t want the exorbitant living expenses, it’s at least worth investigating.

The ATU Letterkenny campus is on the edge of commuting, but again they offer a wide variety of courses including Agriculture, Animation, Dental and the wonderfully named Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Fluid Therapy. I’d like this qualification to hang on my dining room wall for an after dinner conversation starter.

Still within shouting distance across the border, ATU has a few smaller campuses, including one at Killybegs, one of Ireland’s top catering colleges, which offers a wide range of programs leading to a degree in all things hospitality including Culinary Arts, Food and Beverage, Hospitality and Resort Management, Social Media, Guiding, Room Management, etc. ; that’s a pretty impressive list.

Increasingly specialized, we have the CAFRE Enniskillen campus, which offers a series of courses in equine-related topics, attracting students from all over.

If traveling is not a restriction, then consider EU universities, taught in English, I will quickly add that I know a locally practicing doctor who studied medicine in Poland and was very happy with the quality of the education she received.

The Netherlands is probably the region most frequented by local students; regular daily flights from Belfast and Dublin, widely spoken English and low fees explain its popularity. is the place to start looking and you will immediately see how many countries offer courses taught in English.

Do your research on this one, studying in an area near a beautiful Mediterranean beach might sound appealing, but is this in the course you want?

This finally brings us to our very own South West College, with campuses here in Enniskillen as well as Omagh and Dungannon. Here you can study a limited number of degrees and, as their website boasts, many of these courses are available to study part-time and for the day. In reality, this means that you can start your educational journey here and even end it.

College days are often the most rewarding, but only if you do the right course. Think hard, do your research, and then act on your findings. Good luck!


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