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Studying and sport proved to be a winning combination for a group of teenagers who completed Personal and Professional Development Modules as part of the University of Ulster’s widening access strategy.

The students successfully juggled a packed programme of Computing or Mechanical Technology classes in the morning with multi-sport activities in the afternoon. 

Speaking at the presentation of their certificates at the Jordanstown campus last week, Professor Richard Millar, Dean of the Faculty of Computing and Engineering said the young people, their parents and carers should all feel justifiably proud of what they had achieved. 

“Staff in Student Support, the Ulster Sports Academy, Computing and Engineering, the Department of Access and Educational Partnerships and the Fostering Network should also take credit for the support and guidance they’ve given the young people. Hopefully we see before us the country’s future leading computing and engineering professionals.”

The Faculty of Computing and Engineering received funding from the EU and DEL under the Peace II initiative to provide educational opportunities to individuals and communities who had been educationally disadvantaged as a consequence of ‘the Troubles’ or who had been unable to avail of the opportunities available in mainstream education.

As part of this project, a number of CD-based credit bearing modules were developed for delivery as self-study or in groups within community settings.This led to the development of Ulster’s Certificate in Personal and Professional Development and the CPPD Framework, to provide flexible pathways to higher education for individuals and communities who may have missed out on the opportunity for higher education in the past. 

Professor Millar explained that when the funded project ended, the Faculty continued to offer the modules in an effort to raise aspirations and to encourage participants to consider Computing or Engineering as a career of choice. The Faculty, in collaboration with the Ulster Sports Academy, developed a number of additional modules specifically for delivery at a Summer Camp for 14-16 year olds where they studied for a 5-credit point module in either Computing or Mechanical Technology in the morning and then took part in multi-sport activities after lunch. 

In addition, Student Support, in collaboration with the Fostering Network and as part of the Frank Buttle Quality Mark, hostedtwo one-week residential Summer Schemes at the Magee and Jordanstown campuses. As part of this Summer Scheme, the young people visited the Faculty of Computing and Engineering and had an opportunity to take a 5-credit point Introduction to the Internet and Multimedia module.

According to Professor Millar, both initiatives were developed specifically to provide personal development opportunities; promote positive values and skills; promote self-esteem and confidence; provide a knowledge gateway to Higher Education; and to provide access to quality education.

Last summer, 47 young people successfully completed credit bearing modules as part of these initiatives and had an enjoyable first-hand experience of what life as a University student actually entails.

“The very positive response we’ve had from the participants, their parents/carers and organisers clearly indicates that this work is having a real impact on the young people and a number of them have said that although they’d never really considered university as an option before, they would now,” added Professor Millar.

Certificates were awarded to the following: Introduction to Mechanical Technology: Christopher Allen, Antrim Grammar School; Kenny Bird, Dromore High School; Michaela Burke, St Joseph’s College, Belfast; Apoorva Kashyap, Victoria College, Belfast; Jonathan Hillen, Belfast Metropolitan College; Fionnula O'Hare,Dominican College, Fortwilliam; Nicola Paul and St Joseph’s College, Ravenhill Road, Belfast.

Introduction to Practical Computing, Blake Fowler, Ballyclare High School; Eoin Given, St Malachy’s College, Belfast; Thomas McRoberts, Wallace High School, Lisburn; Mathew Menown , RBAI, BelfastAlex Patterson, Aquinas College, Ravenhill Road, Belfast and Kunal Singhal, Methodist College, Belfast.

Introduction to the Internet and Multimedia, Paul Gilmore, St Louis Grammar School, Kilkeel; Bret Kennedy, South East Regional College; Nicola McDermott, St Pius X College, Magherafelt; Ben Rogan, St Paul’s High School, Bessbrook; Robbie West, Ballee Community High School, Ballymena.