NRC staff praised as former student commences Biomedical Science degree

Lecturers at the Northern Regional College have been thanked for the support they gave to a former student who is now studying a Biomedical Science degree at university.

Thursday, 7th January 2021, 11:06 am
Updated Thursday, 7th January 2021, 12:01 pm

Julie Spratt did a Foundation Degree in Applied and Medical Science at the NRC campus in Newtownabbey following the successful completion of an Access Diploma at Northern Regional College in 2018.

She completed the course in 2020, graduating with distinction and this was her steppingstone to becoming an undergraduate at Ulster University last autumn.

Julie, who left school at 16 with just one GCSE to her name, wants to work in a medical research laboratory as a biomedical scientist after she graduates.

Julie Spratt.

The Co Londonderry woman explained that after leaving school, she worked in a variety of part-time jobs which she fitted in around the demands of a young family.

She said: “I had always planned to return to third level education to improve my career prospects when my children were grown up and felt the Access Diploma would help me get a better job.”

Julie spent four years as a student at Northern Regional College and studied at three different campuses. She said the support from staff at all campuses was outstanding and helped get her through some challenging times.

The Knockloughrim resident said: “I started the Access Diploma in Social Science at Magherafelt campus in 2016 and subsequently transferred to the Ballymena campus to do Science modules in my second year, and this allowed me to progress to do a Foundation Degree in Applied and Medical Science.”

She said her four years at the college were a great preparation for going to university. Julie continued: “As well as a getting a solid foundation in biomedical science and great laboratory experience, I feel more confident about the competency of my IT and research skills and my ability to do presentations.

“On a personal level, I found that being a student at Northern Regional College helped me grow as a person. My self-belief, self-esteem and confidence in my own ability has really developed and this was in no small part due to the ever-present encouragement from the lecturers.

“They really take an interest in their students. I always felt I had their support and they encouraged me not to stop at the Access Diploma but to progress further. Thanks to this support and encouragement, I was motivated to go to university to study biomedical science.”

Although she enjoyed being a student and the interaction with lecturers and the camaraderie of other students, Julie admits that her time at the college wasn’t all plain sailing.

She explained: “At the start of the second year my Access course, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was challenging to keep up with my studies while I was going through treatment, but the college gave me something positive to focus on and helped keep my mind busy.”

Having sailed through the Access Diploma and then the Foundation Degree with flying colours, Julie said she would “most certainly recommend” both courses.

She added: “I would urge anyone - particularly any mature students who have been out of education for a number of years - who is thinking about enrolling on an Access or other courses at the college, to ‘go for it’. I know they’ll not regret it.”

Julie’s successful return to education has inspired her two own daughters in follow in her footsteps. Both are currently doing an Access Diploma at the college: one hopes to become a nurse and the other a paramedic.

Ann McGinty, Course co-ordinator of the Applied and Medical Science Foundation Degree at the college’s Newtownabbey campus, said Julie had been a pleasure to teach.

Ann said: “Julie is an inspiration to all of us. She completed the Foundation Degree with distinction while dealing with cancer and the many and varied challenges of family life.

“She was always a joy to have in class, great fun and a tremendous support to all her classmates. I feel privileged to have been able to help her on her learning journey.”

For further information about the opportunities available at Northern Regional College, go to


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