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International Overview

Northern Ireland’s six regional FE Colleges offer a range of quality courses for international students. 

College information for international students

  • South West College

Studying in Northern Ireland

Why should I come to study in Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland’s tradition of excellence in education is world renowned. It has six Regional Further Education Colleges.

The NI FE offering is also supported through: Colleges in Britain

Is the area safe?

Of all the UK towns and cities, those in Northern Ireland are amongst some of the safest. The Peace Process has led to political stability and the region is also particularly safe for women. Anyone studying at one of our Regional Colleges can be confident and happy about living in Northern Ireland.

What is the weather like in Northern Ireland?

The climate in Northern Ireland is notoriously unpredictable, especially on the west coast, where a bright, sunny morning can turn into a downpour. The west coast receives more rain than the rest of the country and the east coast gets more sunshine. The west coast is also milder in the winter due to the relatively warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Generally speaking, May to September are the warmest months, with an average summer high of around 18-19°C and, though they are often the driest months, you can expect rain at any time of the year, even in high summer.

What courses are available?

The Regional Colleges offer courses – including two-year Higher Education Foundation Degrees - in Art and Design, Food and Hospitality, Built Environment and Construction, Communication and Media, ICT, Sport, Travel and Tourism, Engineering and Manufacturing, Sustainability and Green technologies, Business and Finance. However, do please check through individual college websites or contact the college for places available.

What are the requirements for English language?

For admission, the Colleges requires students to obtain IELTS 5.5 or equivalent.

How do I apply for a course?

Download the International Application Form from the college website and post it to us together with other supporting documents as required. When we receive your application we will contact you advising you of your application result.

Please make sure that you provided as much detail as possible in the application form including your full home address and post-code.

When do I need to apply?

You need to make your application no later than the end of June for the following autumn session.

Do I need to pay a deposit for admission purposes?

To help the College secure your place of study, students are generally required to pay a deposit which is fully refundable if your visa application is not successful and you inform the college appropriately.

How long do I need to wait for my application to be processed?

On average, it takes the College 3 weeks to assess your application and make an offer to you. However, you should allow up to 5 weeks to receive your offer letter.

What is the difference between an ‘Unconditional offer’ and a ‘Conditional offer’?

If you meet the requirements on English language and already have the results of your examinations, and they are suitable, you will be given an 'Unconditional Offer' after you have paid your deposit. This means that if you decide to accept our offer of a study place, your place is guaranteed and you should go on to apply for your visa as soon as possible.

If you are still taking your examinations or are waiting to hear your results or haven’t paid the deposit, you may be given a 'conditional offer'. A 'conditional offer' means that we will offer you a study place if you achieve the grades we ask for in the subjects that are specified in the offer. If you do not pass your exams or get lower grades than you are asked for, or haven’t paid your deposit, you will still be considered, but a place cannot be guaranteed.

Can I study part-time?

UK immigration regulations require students from abroad (except those from EEA countries) to study full-time in order to qualify for entry as a student. If you are in the UK with immigration status other than a student, e.g. you are dependent of a student, you can study part-time.

Can I continue to do a degree course after HNC/D?

Yes, successful completion of your HNC/D programme would qualify you to join a degree course from the 2nd or 3rd year in a UK university.

Will my qualifications be recognised?

Yes. Many overseas school-leaving certificates, college diplomas, university degrees and other qualifications are recognised. To check the equivalence of your qualification with those in Northern Ireland write to NARIC – the National Academic Recognition Information Centre – for advice:UK NARIC, ECCTIS 2000 Ltd,  Oriel House,   Oriel Road,  Cheltenham GL50 1XP  T: +44 (0) 1242 260010 / F: + 44 (0) 1242 258600

If your qualifications are insufficient it might be necessary for you to study an access/foundation course or a lower qualification than you intended in order to achieve the required level of entry to your desired course.

How do my qualifications compare to UK qualifications?

The National Academic Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC) can give information and advice on the comparability of overseas qualifications with those from the UK. Find them at:

Will a Northern Ireland qualification be recognised in my home country?

A degree or qualification obtained in Northern Ireland has the same status as any other qualification obtained in the UK. All UK qualifications are generally recognised and well respected throughout the world.

Do I need Entry Clearance (a visa) to study?

Before arriving in the UK, the nationals of certain countries must obtain entry clearance.

These countries, known as ‘visa-national’ countries, are determined by the British Government.The UK visas website has more information


International Projects / Activities

The Colleges are each involved in a range of lifelong learning initiatives (e.g. Leonardo, Erasmus), INTERREG projects and knowledge transfer projects.

Here is a link to College's international pages: