The Open University in Northern Ireland sees a surge in new applicants | Newry Times

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Tuesday, May 18th, 2021
Community, Jobs & Careers

The Open University has seen a rise in its student numbers in Northern Ireland over the past year with more people choosing to study online with the OU as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.


Open University Northern Ireland sees a surge in new applicants - Newry Times - newry news online


The University cites the impact of Covid-19 as the main driver of the increase.



Demand has significantly increased for upskilling and reskilling and the attractiveness of The OU’s years of experience in high-quality distance learning is clear from the increase in student numbers.

The total number of new students registering with the OU in Northern Ireland in the past year has grown by nearly 35%.

In terms of actual student numbers, the total number of all students in Northern Ireland for 2020/21 is up 18% on last year to over 5,300 (including Undergraduates, Postgraduates, but excluding validated degrees).


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As the only university that operates across the UK, The OU has also seen growth in numbers in Scotland, Wales and England.

In terms of actual student numbers, the total number of all students for 2020/21 across the UK is up 15% on last year to over 163,000 (including Undergraduates, Postgraduates, and Apprenticeships, but excluding validated degrees).

The total number of new students registering with the OU across the UK in the past year is over 59,000, compared to nearly 47,000 in 2019/20.

There’s also been an increase in people enrolling with the University to study full-time, seen in the 2020/21 intake.



Director of The Open University in Ireland, John D’Arcy says, “We are really pleased with 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.

“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.”

He continues, “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 micro-credentials and short courses.”

John adds, “We continue to evolve the way in which we enable people to change their lives through learning and to help them realise their ambitions today.”




Among the OU’s new starters this year has been Emma, a 32-year-old from Belfast. 

Emma’s employment has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and she was placed on furlough for a substantial amount of time. 

She used funding provided by the Department for the Economy to pay her postgraduate certificate.

“I was a busy venue technician and used to being busy with events and creating content, when my industry got severely hit, I almost lost my job. 

“My mental health took a real hit.

“And I was worried about my future but the OU has really helped me feel like I have a future again. 

“I am now studying a PG cert in Sustainable Creative Management and the government are sponsoring this,” she continues.



“I think the OU has reminded me of the person I wanted to be when I was 18, I’ve got more energy, I feel like my mental health has vastly improved and I’m proud of myself again. 

“I feel like I’m achieving something and the confidence I’ve got back, hopefully, will propel me forward.”


Keep up to date with all the latest Northern Ireland Coronavirus / Covid-19 news HERE.


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