I Want to go to University, but I Thought I’d ask what College can do First.

13th November 2017

Over the last couple of years I’ve heard the same kind of question at the college’s open days. It’s some variation on “I know I can get myself a place at university but could the college offer me anything?” The short answer is “yes” and the evidence is here. 

We’ll start by discussing what you want and how close we can come to delivering it. What many people don’t realise is that in the last year for which we have figures (2016-2017) around 4.2% of the UK’s higher education took place in colleges like ours, meaning around 80,000 students chose to study in this way. 

When this works well, it’s often because the students coming our way want smaller classes than they would find at university, more one-to-one attention and an environment that doesn’t overwhelm them. If I pass one of my students in a supermarket we’d recognise each other and if anyone is late for a lecture we notice and – if necessary – contact them to make sure they stay in touch with the work. 

The temptation for a college is to highlight a handful of spectacular success stories though that isn’t really the point of what colleges do best in changing lives. The names here have been changed but the stories below all apply to North Kent College. 

In my working life I’ve become aware of one student – Sarah - who left school to start a level two course (meaning she had to step up to earn GCSEs at the age of 17). She remains memorable where I work because she spent six years in full-time education, leaving us with a Foundation Degree and a fast-track place offered to complete a BA within a year. That story is exceptional, the rest are typical.   

The people we see include Ellie, a 37 year old whirlwind with a wealth of stories of the people she has met in her media career, and a skill in blagging that took her to well-paid jobs, but little job security. A mature student in more than one sense of the word as she shows her classmates on a Broadcast course how to do the job. 

Mikey, currently performing at the highest level on a Sports Science degree is a different aspect of college based Higher Education; but an increasing part of our market. People like him attend open days and start the conversation with some version of “The university of this big city can offer me a place and I’m smashing the grades; what can you lot do if I want to keep my job in the supermarket and stay with my girlfriend?” 

Sunni – by contrast – was always likely to join our computer course. His special needs statement and the relationship he built up with his college tutors as he earned his extended diploma meant the motivation to stay and continue the same process up to a foundation degree always looked like the most practical route. 

I started teaching a Professional Writing course in this environment in 1999, I’m still here. Higher education in a college is about helping individuals, making sure the choices they make are good life choices, as well as good choices for their grades. We start this process by having an honest discussion about whether their needs and what we offer, so that we can meet well enough to make the whole journey a success on both sides. 

For more information on our Higher Education courses, please go to our Higher Education page or give us a call on 01322 629400.

Written by Neil Nixon, Lecturer in Media studies & Professional Writing

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