Time to Ring in Your New Skills; New Beginning: After School in China and Further Study in Singapore, Thames Valley University with a February Start Was Perfect for Dingling Zhang Thinking positive:Sandra John Wanted to Move on from Her Job as a Special Needs Teaching Assistant and Found an Ideal London Met BSc Course in Multimedia That She Could Start This Month

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Byline: Sarah Richardson

MORE and more Londoners are choosing to recession-proof their futures by taking additional qualifications.

Whether it's to help you change career direction or simply ensure you stay on top of your game, courses with new year start dates are proving popular with switched-on students who don't want to hang around to see what the job market looks like in September.

Amanda Kerns, head of UK and EU student recruitment at London Metropolitan University (www.londonmet.ac.uk), thinks that, with an economic downturn, people are understandably concerned about their careers.

"We have had incredible interest in our January courses from applicants aiming to beat the credit crunch by updating their skills to enhance their CVs and make them more employable," she says.

With more than 34,000 students, London Met is the largest unitary university in the capital, and one of the foremost providers of full and part-time courses in Britain. It offers a large and impressive portfolio of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, ranging from the more traditional subjects such as business, psychology and law, to contemporary specialist courses such as mobile computing and forensic science.

"Courses are planned in consultation with employers and examining bodies from commerce, industry, the world of art and design, the financial services industries and other professions," explains Amanda.

"The result is high-quality courses that are of direct relevance to their field. Courses are accredited by a wide range of professional bodies, ensuring students' confidence in the professional currency of their qualification.

"There is no issue of 'catching up', even if you do start in January, because the course will take exactly the same time to complete," she adds. "January starters will finish their course a semester after the September intake." Sandra John, 44, was working as a teaching assistant in a special needs school before she enrolled on a BSc course in multimedia at London Met in February 2006.

"I had been having problems at work and I wanted to turn that negative into a positive," she recalls. "I always wanted to go to university but was too scared to actually do it. I missed the September start and was worried that if I left it any longer I would lose my bottle and end up not going.

"London Met was offering a great course beginning in January, which was ideal.

I am in my final year now and I have learnt so much.

My confidence has really grown and I am looking forward to re-entering the job market next year armed with my new skills. …