Three OU students shared their stories at an event to celebrate the power of part-time education in Northern Ireland.
The Open University hosted a winter reception at Parliament Buildings in Belfast, sponsored by the Assembly Committee for Employment and Learning. It highlighted how part-time higher education plays an important role in helping people to achieve their potential. It also demonstrated how part-time study can grow the economy by enabling students to 'earn while they learn', develop higher level skills and gain higher-paid jobs.
In front of Members of Legislative Assembly (MLSs) and civil servants, three OU students shared their own stories about how OU study helped them develop their skills and confidence as they balanced being a student with work and family life.
Graeme Millar, who completed an MBA with the OU, is now developing a whiskey distillery, aiming to make it a global business.
Christine McMahon juggled her studies around work and caring for her father and her BA (Hons) Open Degree helped her achieve more in her role caring for elderly patients.
Andrea Craig, who was a health care assistant when she started studying with the OU, progressed through a Diploma in Higher Education in Mental Health Nursing to become Deputy Ward Sister. She said: "Part-time study has changed every aspect of my life."
Robin Swann MLA, Chair of the Committee for Employment and Learning, said:
The Open University is a vital component of the Higher Education system here in Northern Ireland, providing flexible, online and distance learning opportunities across the whole region. Part-time study is often the only way many individuals can access higher education - for example those juggling work and family commitments - and we need to recognise and acknowledge the work of the OU in supporting and motivating its students to achieve their full potential for the benefit of Northern Ireland's society and economy.
John D'Arcy, Director of the OU in Northern Ireland, said: "The Open University has around 4,000 students across Northern Ireland, combining work, caring responsibilities and all the other aspects of their busy lives with their studies. Gaining recognition from our MLAs, Ministers, MPs and civil servants as the largest provider of part-time Higher Education, and as a key contributor to the Northern Ireland economy, is a great achievement for us today."