Vocational Learning Closer to Home; ADVERTISING FEATURE City of Westminster College, with More Than 250 Courses on Offer, Is a Leading Post-16 Education Provider in London

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Byline: NIKI CHESWORTH

AN uncertain jobs market and rising university fees have led to an increased focus on vocational qualifications. "Studying a relevant subject in your chosen field can be a smart way of reaching your career goals," says David Pigden, the deputy principal at City of Westminster College.

"For instance, an HND or foundation degree is vocational, with assessment largely or entirely through practical assignments -- something many students prefer. Not only are these qualifications highly valued by employers, for those who decide to move straight into employment, they also give you the option to complete a final year at university."

City of Westminster College (CWC) delivers around 250-plus courses -- including vocational degree-level qualifications -- and offers opportunities to study in the heart of London from a RIBA award-winning main campus on Paddington Green and a second specialist campus in Queen's Park.

Over the past two years, the college, which is a leading post-16 and adult education provider in Westminster, has added more higher education (HE) courses -- this is in response to demand from students who want to study closer to home or earn as they learn. The new HE options now offered by CWC include applied biology, computing systems development, health and social care, sport/sport science, and travel and tourism management. Other courses include business studies, building services engineering, construction, creative music production and photography.

Students also have a choice of parttime and full-time options, to help those who wish to work while they study and the emphasis on employability extends beyond courses, with students benefiting from close links to employers.

ALTERNATIVE TO UNIVERSITY Another new course on offer from CWC enables students to progress to university.

From this October, the college is running a psychology first-year BSc degree in conjunction with Birkbeck.

Taught at evenings and weekends by University of London lecturers, it enables students to complete the first year for lower fees in Paddington and then move on to part-time degree courses in social sciences or psychology at Birkbeck. CWC also now offers college teaching qualifications, including a Level 5 diploma (formerly DTLLS) in both general and specialist pathways, and a new higher apprenticeship (foundation degree equivalent) for those who want to gain a recognised qualification in construction management.

Foundation degree and HND qualifications are valued in their own right by employers, and a progression agreement with local universities (including Middlesex and Westminster) means that students have the option to "top up" to an honours degree with one further year's full-time study. …