New Year, New You: Put your green fingers to work

If your life needs enhancing, there are plenty of courses for you

Credit-crunch blues making you think of sharpening up your CV? Or fancy something to hone the mind, spark a new interest, or build on an old one? If you don't want to wait until next September, it's worth thinking of applying to one of the many January- or February-start courses now on offer round the country – take your pick from full, part-time or even home study.

The University of Derby, which now offers around 200 spring starts, says a January course tends to appeal to those already working, who are either looking to improve their job prospects or shift careers, and they often want to study part-time.

Even if you are starting studying in September, says Liz Hagger, a consultant at Domino Careers, signing up for a course through winter and spring gives you a chance to learn new skills such as IT. "If you've had a long gap since previous study, taking a course now will give you practice in the discipline of managing time, taking notes, doing assignments and balancing that with the rest of your life," she says.

And there's a tempting range available, enabling you to convert degrees to change career tack, or upgrade home hobbies into employable skills. Studied for a history degree but have no computer skills? London Metropolitan University offers conversion courses in psychology, law and computing, advertising their computing pre-Masters course starting in February as particularly suitable for those wanting a one-semester bridging programme before starting a Masters. Ugochi Obi, who originally studied biochemistry in Nigeria, was looking for just such a course. "I needed a good university that offered a course that was short and a good foundation for a Masters. The academic experience given by the computing pre-Masters was just awesome," she says.

Foundation degrees, with their emphasis on work-based learning, are useful for those looking for a career change who can't afford the time or money for an undergraduate programme. Birkbeck College in London, well known for its part-time courses, has three foundation degrees starting in January, in science, IT and media and business applications. The college has recently had an increase in applications for postgraduate courses in areas such as management and economics, attributed in part, it believes, to those working in finance wishing to improve their prospects if they find themselves back on the job market.

If you fancy something more leisurely, there's the 20-week Genius of Gardening course at the University of Kent, based at Sissinghurst Castle Garden and running for two hours each Wednesday from 21 January, covering the history of English gardens from Roman times to the early 18th century. If you're more of a practical gardener, look up the professional certificate in gardening starting for the first time this spring at Writtle College in Chelmsford, 40 minutes from London. It's being run by popular demand after requests from students, and all you need to bring along is an enthusiasm for horticulture and a commitment to reading and learning outside of the taught course.

If, however, your skills run to sewing, you could look at two courses. The London College of Fashion starts a course in recycled clothing in March, aimed at those with basic hand- and machine-sewing skills; and another in January in home-sewing and garment-making.

Finally, the National Design Academy, which offers part-time and distance- learning diploma and degree courses in interior design and soft furnishings, is running open days for prospective students in January. The academy offers courses for the inexperienced and those seeking their first qualification (as well as degree courses for the more experienced) either at home with online tutor support, or in its Nottingham studio. For David Young, working part- time in a furniture store, the National Design Academy foundation degree was perfect. "I wanted to go to university to study design, but felt the costs were too high," he says. "I'm delighted with the course, as I have enough time to do the projects and I haven't had to take out a student loan."


Target Courses:
The Open University:
The Open College of the Arts:

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Pre School Practitioner

£6 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued expansion, they are loo...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development & Relationship Manager

£45000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development & Relati...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant - Startup

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Personal Assistant is require...

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific