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Máirtín enrolled as a student at St Mary's University College and successfully graduated with a BA (Hons), First Class in Liberal Arts majoring in History.

Máirtín provides a profile of his time at the College.

Where are you from and what school/college did you attend?

 I am from Crumlin, Co. Antrim and attended St Malachy’s College in Belfast.

What occupation were you in before coming to St Mary’s?

I served my time as a carpenter/joiner before working for ten years as a Medical Technical Officer in the Renal Units of Belfast City and Altnagelvin Area hospitals. Finally I was a self-employed courier.


What led you to make an application to the College?

As a courier I was spending too much time away from my two boys, given that I was a single parent that was not good. I saw an advertisement regarding the Liberal Arts degree programme and after making a few enquiries I decided that I should finally complete a degree course.


Why did you choose your particular degree programme?

I had initially thought of applying for BA (Hons) Liberal Arts with English, but ultimately chose History, driven by a desire to examine the multitude of events which have shaped the world we live in.


What is your experience of the teaching support and student facilities at St Mary’s University College?

The support I received was outstanding. In my opinion to be a student of St Mary’s is to be a member of one big ever-expanding family.

What additional experiences and opportunities were made available to you during your time at the College?

I was a proud member of the College hurling team which completed a historic league and championship double in 2009, and I served as Clubs and Societies Officer in the Students’ Union.


Would you recommend St Mary’s University College to potential students?

Absolutely! I believe the Liberal Arts course develops all the skills needed to meet the challenges of the world of work, play and family life, marrying as it does Politics, Economics, Culture and the Arts, Philosophy and Ethics. The fact that all the staff, not just lecturers, help make your time at the College such a pleasant one, makes it stand out from the rest. Again I would stress that St Mary’s is much more than a University College, it is one big family!


Any other comments that you feel are relevant in support of the overall College experience? Perhaps you would like to comment on the challenges and opportunities of being a mature student.

I would be lying if I said I was not concerned about attending college with more than one hundred teenagers in my year group, but I need not have worried as this was never an issue in my three years at the College. The College has put in place mechanisms for students who raise issues or concerns some formal and some informal, but I have to say as a mature student with four children during my last year at the college I received all the support I could ask for, from all the staff. 



Anne Marie successfully secured a place at St Mary’s University College on the BEd (Hons) in Primary Education majoring in English.

Anne Marie was nursing for 5 years before she returned to education. She completed 'A' levels at her local college and secured a place on the BA English degree at Queens University in Belfast. 

Whilst at university she married and the following year, just before her final exams, her first child was born. She had intended to return to her studies however she withdrew from her degree programme when her second child was born. She stayed at home and cared for her young family. 


As the years passed Anne Marie qualified as a registered child minder and cared for many children. She undertook numerous part-time courses to develop her skills.  During that time she qualified as an essential skills tutor. When her children were in their early teens she applied to St Mary’s to become a qualified primary school teacher - "I must have been confident I would get a place at St Mary's because it was the only application I made. My attitude was if I wasn't going there I wasn't going anywhere!" She was successful.

"The staff at St Mary's are fantastic, very supportive and helpful. Life at St Mary's has been one of the most enjoyable experiences, although like everything else in life it has not been without its struggles i.e. pressures to meet deadlines for assignments, preparing for teaching practice and studying for exams etc."

Donna successfully secured a place at St Mary's University College on the BA (Hons) in Liberal Arts majoring in English.


At school Donna achieved excellent ‘A’ levels grades in English, History and Religion but rather than continue to Higher Education she left school and worked in administration.  She married at 24 and started a family. She had 3 children, sadly one of her children died.  When her youngest child started primary school Donna returned to work.

Donna responded to an advertisement for the BA (Hons) Liberal Arts degree at St Mary’s University College in Belfast and submitted an application which was successful.

“I had always wanted a degree and as I had performed so well at A-Levels I knew I had the ability. English was my first love and in 2002 I commenced the 3 year BA in Liberal Arts majoring in English. I didn’t know then that this degree was to become my passion over the next 3 years, it was a real labour of love.”

Donna was fortunate to have the support of her family and whilst at St Mary’s she availed of every student opportunity. She became a peer tutor, supporting and mentoring other students and she undertook a 3-month ERASMUS placement (international exchange) in Seville, Southern Spain. She taught in a Spanish school 3 days per week and attended the Spanish university campus 2 days a week, travelling at weekends.

Donna was very proud to graduate with a first class honours degree and was presented with the BA Endeavour Award for high marks in English and the International Memorial Outreach award.

“I was particularly touched and humbled by this outreach award as it was dedicated to the memory of Eugene, a student who tragically died in a skiing accident.  I felt honoured that Eugene’s father was at the ceremony and my thoughts were with Eugene‘s mother as I too, had experienced the loss of my child.”

Donna  enrolled in a Masters in Modern English Language and her ambition is to lecture one day.

“My three years in St Mary's University College were the happiest of my life so far. I am missing the place terribly.”

Bronagh successfully secured a place at St Mary’s University College on the BEd (Hons) Post-Primary majoring in Technology & Design.

By the time she had reached the age of 18 Bronagh had dropped out of her A-Levels studies, married and had her first child. Her second child was born three years later. She worked for a pharmaceutical firm as a quality assurance technician for five years until the company introduced shift work which was not conducive to raising a young family. Bronagh reluctantly resigned to care for her family and her third child was born a few years later. 

Bronagh's siblings had attended university and she knew she had the ability to do the same. She made enquiries at Newry Institute of Further & Higher Education and she enrolled on the 2-year Access to Science and Technology course validated by the University of Ulster.

“ It does take a lot of courage to take that first step but once you do it, you’re flying”

She worked hard, passed the first year and eventually graduated from the Newry Institute.

“I was so very proud of what I had accomplished and as my dad had passed away shortly beforehand I took my Access certificate to his grave to show him what I had achieved, I just know he is proud of me.”

She was thrilled to undertake her initial teaching practice at a local school and enjoyed her degree programme at St Mary’s University College.

“The technology and design department at St Mary’s was excellent and the staff very encouraging.  It feels like home from home and not because I am often there until 9pm!”

“My subsidiary subject is ICT and I am fortunate that my son enjoys this subject and likes to help me out, whilst my daughter who is studying English ‘A’ level proofreads my assignments and provides constructive feedback whilst my youngest daughter helps with household chores when I have a lot of work to do. I am very fortunate to have the support of all my family.”

“I would advise anyone to go for it.  I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at St Mary’s and look forward to what the future years will bring.”


Nuala successfully secured a place at St Mary’s University College on the BA (Hons) in Liberal Arts majoring in English.

In her teens Nuala obtained qualifications in Typing, Bookkeeping, ‘O’ level Maths and English and a BTEC Diploma in Business Studies.  When she left school she worked for several years before getting married and having her first child. She now has four children.

When her third child was in Nursery School Nuala commenced lifelong learning and participated in part-time parenting programmes to support her children's literacy needs. Nuala has achieved NVQ levels 1, 2 and 3 in Childcare and Education, excellent ‘A’ Level grades in English and History, the ECDL and a City & Guilds Level 3 Advanced Diploma in computing. She also achieved a recognised Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

Nuala applied for St Mary’s twice and eventually succeeded in securing a place on the BA in Liberal Arts majoring in English. She became a peer tutor and an elected student representative for her year group.  She is proud of everything she has achieved, especially her commitment to lifelong learning and her desire to change her educational status to achieve her personal career goals.  She thoroughly enjoyed her degree course and now that her daughter is also completing a degree they support and encourage each other.

“I’d advise adult learners to be positive about their own abilities and never let anyone tell them that improving their educational skills is not worthwhile.”

“Higher Education is available and accessible; it just takes a person to be motivated to achieve something for themselves.”