Take a Different Route to Training; Universities Aren't the Only Choice When It Comes to Further Study, with Centres Such as City of Westminster College Offering Vocational Courses with Additional Flexibility

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Byline: SARAH RICHARDSON

[bar] THERE'S more than one way to study for a higher education qualification, and it doesn't have to be through a university. Already one of the largest providers of post-16 education and training in central London, City of Westminster College is offering more than 250 courses from two locations, including its award-winning new Paddington Green Campus.

From this September, the college is offering an expanded range of vocational higher education (HE) qualifications, with higher national certificate and diploma (HNC/HND) and foundation degree courses in applied biology, computing and systems development, sport, and travel and tourism management.

These join existing HE options, including business, building services engineering, construction, creative music production and photography. Specialist courses include a clinical physiology BSc, a diploma in teaching in the lifelong learning sector and AAT accounting qualifications.

Many courses are part-time, enabling students to earn as they learn -- an increasingly popular option for those who want to change career or who are concerned about financing their studies. Current tuition fees for HE courses at the college range from [pounds sterling]1,950 to [pounds sterling]5,995 a year, comparing favourably with university equivalents, and students are eligible to apply for a tuition fee loan.

Funding your studies can be a daunting prospect but, according to City of Westminster College careers adviser Jamie O'Hara, it's an investment for the future. He says: "Statistically, a higher education qualification improves your earning potential over your lifetime and there is nothing to repay until you're earning at least [pounds sterling]21,000."

Enrolment begins today for students who already have firm or conditional offers, with enrolment for new applicants from next Tuesday, August 28. The college has been providing Clearing advice since A-level results were published -- along with guidance on fees and funding -- and trends so far suggest many students whose firstchoice university was outside London are now considering local options.

O'Hara also believes many students have chosen to apply late, which means there may be a last-minute scramble for places. He advises students going through Clearing to be prepared to make more informal approaches to ensure they find the right course.

"Be persuasive, but remember that Clearing continues well into September, so you still have time," he says. …