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First Cisco Academy Support Centre launches in Northern Ireland with support of The Open University

The Open University (OU) is delighted to partner with Cisco, the multinational digital communications technology corporation, to create Northern Ireland’s first Cisco Academy Support Centre. The centre will provide direct support, leadership, and ownership to develop lecturers at the six Further Education colleges, helping students studying OU-validated degree programmes to connect their degree studies with industry certifications and digital badges through the Cisco Networking Academy.

The Cisco Networking Academy is a global IT training and education programme that equips and inspires learners from all backgrounds to kick-start a tech career. Whether curious about technology or ready to enter the workplace, the programme offers a range of courses from beginner level, through to industry certification, via a curriculum spanning Networking, Cybersecurity, Programming and more.

As part of this ecosystem, Cisco partners with leading support organisations, called Academy Support Centres and Instructor Training Centres. These organisations support and develop teaching and teachers through an extensive community.

Speaking at the launch of the Support Centre at The Open University offices in Belfast, Elizabeth Barr, Head of the Cisco Networking Academy UK & Ireland said:

“We are immensely proud that all six of Northern Ireland’s Further Education colleges are part of the Cisco Networking Academy ecosystem and can gain access, for free, to the plethora of courses and resources the Academy offers. The Open University is one of our largest Academy Support Centres globally and we are delighted to work with them to establish this new localised support centre, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.

“This fantastic collaboration will increase our support of educational institutions across Northern Ireland, equipping students with industry-aligned skills and experiences through the Cisco Networking Academy so that they are ready for the workplace of today and of the future.”

Michael Bower, Assistant Director for Student Success and External Engagement at The Open University in Ireland said: “As one of the largest and most effective Cisco Networking Academy Partners, The Open University is delighted to use this expertise to develop the first dedicated Cisco Academy Support Centre in Northern Ireland.

“The Cisco Support Centre will support and develop teaching and lecturers through the community of Cisco Networking Academies established at the six Further Education colleges. Through quality instructor training and professional development, we will support students to gain the vendor-agnostic, industry-aligned skills and experiences needed to support the growing tech industry in Northern Ireland.”  

Andrew Smith, Senior Lecturer in Networking at The Open University’s School of Computing and Communications, was instrumental in establishing the Cisco Support Centre in Northern Ireland. He said: “The Cisco Academy programme is an integral part of the digital skills education landscape in the United Kingdom. Having worked with Cisco for 25+ years, I am aware of how this will develop future, cyber, coding and internet engineering experts in Northern Ireland – by putting Further Education at the centre of this we are empowering a community of local specialists that will deliver support and grow expertise in this specialist and in-demand industry.”

The launch event was attended by leaders and managers from Cisco, the Further Education colleges, the Department for the Economy and The Open University.

For more information on the Cisco Networking Academy in Northern Ireland visit

To find out about the range of Further Education courses validated by The Open University visit

For media enquiries please contact:

Christine Murphy, Communications Manager

Tel 028 9053 6219