You don’t have to go far from home to benefit from further education

There are further study options available on your doorstep, with many added benefits, writes Jill McNicol of UHI Press Office.

UCAS’s 2022 clearing report highlights that the rise in the cost of living has become an increasingly important lifestyle factor for school leavers deciding where to study.

Applicants who have been offered university places are rating the cost of living 16 percentage points higher in their decision-making process than they did in 2019. A UCAS focus group also found evidence that some students may be unable to attend as many open days as they would like, ahead of deciding where to apply, due to the cost of travel.

While it’s often been the case that school leavers want to spread their wings and experience a different lifestyle when choosing where to study, perhaps now is the time to look more closely at what’s available locally.

University in Scotland widens access to study

In the Highlands and islands, Moray and Perthshire, we’re lucky to have our own educational institution which widens access to study without the financial pressures that moving away can bring. In fact, UHI was created to encourage young people to study here, providing college and university opportunities across our communities.

Opinion | I think it is brilliant that you can study archaeology in Orkney renewable energy in Stornoway or marine science at Dunstaffnage | Guest Columnist Jill McNicol

I think it’s brilliant that you can study archaeology in Orkney, renewable energy in Stornoway, golf in Dornoch, or marine science at Dunstaffnage, and there are lots of online courses, too. UHI’s scholarships and bursaries can also help to provide financial support.

Protect mental health and forge local links

Studying locally can offer other benefits, too. There is an increasing awareness about the importance of supporting students’ mental wellbeing. While moving on to college or university is an exciting time for many young people, it also represents a time when they learn to study at a different level, in a fresh environment, and with a new group of people.

As a parent with teenage kids, I can understand and appreciate the emotional support that studying closer to home can provide. For me, it would certainly help with concerns about whether they were getting on OK and eating well.

Colleges and universities often have great links with local employers. Many businesses look to the local student population to fill both entry-level positions and more strategic roles. Studying close to home can help young people to get a foot in the door with these organisations, through apprenticeships, placements, part-time and seasonal work, and graduate jobs.

So, as we approach the end of another school year and all the opportunities this time brings, please remember the further study options available on our doorstep – not only as a less expensive option, but also for all the added benefits they can bring.

Jill McNicol is student recruitment and marketing manager at the University of the Highlands and Islands.