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Supporting alternative routes to university ahead of results day

Queen's University Belfast has united with the six Northern Ireland Further Education Colleges, Stranmillis University College, St Mary’s University College, OU, and CAFRE on a new initiative.

Front of the Lanyon building

The new initiative will aim to ensure school leavers are made aware of the full range of higher education options available locally.

For the first time, school leavers, parents and careers staff will have access to the full higher education course listing through a single source by each of Northern Ireland’s two universities.

The aim is to ensure that Northern Ireland’s school leavers understand the many alternative and valued routes to a university degree that are available via Northern Ireland’s six regional Colleges and other providers.

A dedicated webpage provides a full listing of all higher education opportunities available to school leavers and will signpost school leavers who did not receive an offer towards other provisions, including foundation degrees and higher education courses at Northern Ireland’s six local Colleges and other higher education institutions.

Welcoming the initiative, Queen’s University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Greer, said: “Northern Ireland’s third level education sector is world-leading and our universities and colleges equip thousands of people every year with the skills and qualifications they need to pursue valuable careers.

“We understand that this year will cause anxiety for many school leavers. This website will provide detailed information on the extensive range of higher education options at local colleges available to school leavers as a viable alternative that will help them pursue their intended degree course.”

Minister for the Economy, Paul Frew MLA, said: “It’s always important that young people are aware of all the options available to them as they leave school and are considering next steps. Studying for a higher education qualification in a further education college is an excellent option for many school leavers who wish to continue their learning journey.

“The new websites provide a one-stop shop setting out the availability of foundation degree and other HE courses at our local colleges and will be a valuable tool for young people who are seeking to continue their pathway to a bright future.”

Ulster University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Bartholomew, said:  “A shared priority is to enable young people to keep their career ambitions intact and their options open by signposting them to the pathways that can lead to a wide range of degree choices.

“At Ulster University we have a long-established track record in widening participation in and access to higher education. Through our partners in the FE Colleges, we offer well over 100 pathways into a diverse range of Ulster University degree programmes. These alternative routes open up a wealth of options for study and lay the foundations for rewarding careers.”

Chair of the College Principals’ Group, Ken Webb, said: “Results day can be a joyous or disappointing occasion for some. To give school leavers confidence to move their careers forward, we have partnered with the universities on this landmark initiative.

“Young people who do not receive their expected grades for university should not lose hope or feel that they must forgo their career aspirations. There are alternative routes to that university degree at the six local colleges and they can still reach their end destination by taking on a higher education course or foundation degree in college first.”

Find out more about how it works here.  


For more information, please contact the Queen's Communications Office on