NCI Blog

How Gráinne Returned to Education & Graduated in Just 2 Years

Posted by Teresa Murray on 05 August 2021

Accelerated Business Degrees - Grainne McCann

Dr Danielle McCartan-Quinn, Vice Dean of the School of Business, hosted a webinar to explain how you can get your honours degree in Business Management or HRM Strategy and Practice in just two years.

Joining the webinar were NCI alumni: Gráinne McCann, Practice Manager at MediCentre and Daniel Downey, Customer Support Specialist at Hubspot, both hold a BA (Honours) Business Management degree; and Craig Rahem, Medical HR Team Lead at Children’s Health Ireland, who completed a BA (Honours) in HRM Strategy and Practice.

You can watch the recording back below:

HubSpot Video


If you don't have time to watch the full video, read Gráinne's story here:

Why did you want to do a degree?

I had been thinking about doing a Business Degree for many years. I did a Certificate in First Line Management in 2006 with NCI, which was my first taste of formal education since completing my Leaving Cert in 1993. I remember doing the first assignment, being so nervous that I would make a mess of things, but on receiving the result and feedback thinking “ok, I’m not too far off the pulse here!”

After the Certificate, life got in the way a bit! I had two kids in school, and it was pretty busy with them and their after-school activities etc. It wasn’t until 2017 that I would go on and do the degree.

I really wanted to do a degree for many reasons. I wanted to do it for myself, to challenge myself and to prove to myself I could do this. I wanted to do it for my children, to show them that anything was achievable in life. I also wanted to “future proof” myself, although I am very happy and content in my current role, who knows what might happen in the future?

Looking back now studying at NCI were some of the most challenging and the most rewarding years of my life.

Why did you choose NCI?

In 2017, I came across the details on the NCI site about the Honours Degree in Business Management over two years instead of the usual 3 or 4 years. I have to be honest, the short length of the degree really got my attention! Having previously completed the Certificate with NCI, I was familiar with the College and had a positive experience with their professionalism.

The location of NCI was also part of my decision: I needed to commute to Dublin by train and I could take the Luas from Heuston Station to the stop right outside the front door of the College.

After contacting NCI, I learned I was exempt from Semester 1, as my previous Certificate had covered the modules, so I started my degree in January 2018.

Was the workload what you expected?

I am going to be very honest here. From the start to the finish, the workload is intense – this is a level 8, honours degree, that would normally take three years, and you are committing to doing that work in two years. If I could offer one piece of advice, I would say to knuckle down from night one. I expected that it would be hard work, but it was probably more than I had expected! Having said that, I got used to the workload and it quickly became part of “normal life”.

How did you manage to balance work/study/home/social life?

As a working parent of school-age children, heavily involved with the community, I already had a very full schedule, so I knew something would have to give to make room for me to undertake the degree. My employers were very good and extremely encouraging; this certainly made it easier to juggle work.

I had been involved on committees for the GAA at a local, county and national level and I was a board director of my local credit union. I resigned from all these positions as I realised it would not be possible to commit to them at the same time as undertaking the degree. The organisational and strategic parts of my brain were now needed for my academic pursuits!

I made this choice in order to be able to continue to prioritise my family: family always comes first for me and the degree did not change that. My husband and children were extremely supportive and understanding as were my parents, siblings and close friends, especially when some weekends were spent preparing for exams or working on assignments.

“Not too many people could walk a mile in your shoes. Only you know your struggles, challenges, and obstacles; so be proud of how far you have come.” ― Edmond Mbiaka

Things that worked for me were: I bought myself an old-fashioned diary to manage my time. I tended to prepare a timetable for myself at the start of each module and set goals and deadlines for myself and tried as best I could to stick to them. I used my commuting time to read my notes etc.

I also found it more important than ever to manage stress and stay mentally strong. I never gave up my running. I ran most days, and on busy days I set my alarm an hour early to ensure I didn’t miss my run.

How did you get on with your classmates?

I was probably one of the oldest in the class at age 44. There were a few older but most were probably in their 20s and 30s. I got to know 3 or 4 people very well. As a small group we got on very well and worked well together. We studied together as a group and we did the group assignments together.

Did what you were learning on the programme help with your work life even as you studied?

Yes! Without doubt, from Employment Law to Accounting to Managing Productivity almost every module was extremely helpful to me at work and indeed in life, both in real time and since completion.

I now laugh about my first night in college and the module was Introduction to Statistics and the lecturer was going on about an R number and I was thinking “I’m never going to use this stuff!” Who knew that a few short years later we would all be very familiar with said R number during the pandemic 😊

How proud were you when you got your degree?

I was very proud of achieving a First Class Honours Degree.

Everyone’s journey will be different. I am so delighted to have achieved this goal as I hope it shows those in my life that hard work pays off and every dream is achievable.

Has the programme changed the way you work/impacted on your career?

Absolutely. I am a much more organised and confident and I feel I have commanded a huge amount of respect since completing the degree. The degree has affected both my professional and personal life in a positive manner, enhancing my ability to be objective and has improved my analytical skills. It was worth the juggling and hard work for two years for the long-term impact!

Topics: Events at NCI, Part-time Courses, Undergraduate, School of Business