Northern Ireland news

Open University in Northern Ireland sees surge in new applicants

John D'Arcy from Open University

THE number of students taking online courses with The Open University is surging in the north due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

There has been a 35 per cent increase in new students registering with the OU in Northern Ireland in the past year.

The OU said the boost was mainly due to more people wanting to take their degrees online.

In the 2020/21 academic year more than 5,300 people are working towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

There has been similar growth in Scotland, Wales and England.

Across Britain and Northern Ireland, the total number of all students for 2020/21 is up 15 per cent on last year to 163,000.

"We are really pleased at this growth, which shows students continuing to make a clear choice to study with The Open University in what has been an incredibly challenging year for everyone," said John D'Arcy, director of the OU in Ireland.

"Given the impact of the pandemic we are very conscious that many of our students are beginning their courses in a more challenging and unpredictable environment. Many juggle work, caring responsibilities, and family commitments as they begin their study.

"We are acutely aware that many people will be facing a need to upskill or reskill in a way that is affordable and efficient and we endeavour to work to widen access to higher education across Northern Ireland, not just through the provision of degrees at undergraduate and postgraduate level but also through shorter more accessible ways to learn like microcredentials and short courses."

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