National Extension College celebrates its 60th birthday Tuesday, 01 August 2023

The National Extension College (NEC), is marking a special birthday in 2023 as we celebrate 60 years since the college was founded by Michael Young, Lord Young of Dartington.

Throughout August, we’ll be posting some blogs to celebrate our 60 years. 

NEC at 60

Established in August 1963 as a not-for-profit distance learning provider, NEC has a strong proud heritage of widening access to education and aims to transform lives and open up possibilities for people of all ages by offering access to essential qualifications that can be studied flexibly, at any time and anywhere to enable every student to achieve their ambitions. 

Throughout our 60 years we have seen hundreds of thousands of students enrol on our courses, all with different goals and reasons for needing access to distance learning. From initially delivering courses via live broadcast, to sending whole courses in the post to now delivering fully online courses, NEC has been at the forefront of ensuring education is accessible to those in need of flexible study to fit around their lifestyle.  

Our alumni include:

  • Comedian Russell Kane, who studied A level Sociology with NEC and received the fastest ever A grade from enrolment to completion and went on to embark on a degree at Middlesex University. Last year, Russell worked with NEC to deliver the Russell Kane Scholarship which is supporting three students to study towards GCSE and A level qualifications that they may otherwise have been unable to complete. A second scholarship is planned for 2024. 
  • National treasure Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards, who became the first British ski jumper at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, and completed several GCSE and A levels with NEC in the late 1990s before heading to De Montfort University. 

We have, and continue to, work closely with a range of highly respected partners including Prisoners’ Education Trust, awarding bodies, schools, universities, local authorities and subject associations for maths, law, the Classics, art and art history and many more. In particular, we have a close association with the Open University (OU). Founded by Michael Young as a pilot for what he intended to be the nucleus of the Open University, NEC is proud of our shared history and ethos. 

NEC believes that everybody deserves a chance to achieve their learning goals, no matter their circumstances, and we are proud of all of our students’ achievements. We support learners of all ages to help them achieve their goals,” says Chief Executive, Esther Chesterman. 

“Looking towards the future, we are excited to see where newly developing technology in areas like adaptive learning and AI will lead NEC. Our goal is to continue to deliver the same high quality learning materials and support for many years to come and we feel that the expertise gained from 60 years in the sector will be our greatest benefit when tapping into the next generation of online learning.

“To celebrate our birthday we are sponsoring a tree as part of Trees for Streets Cambridge, have partnered with local charity Centre 33 for whom staff will be fundraising, and are offering a bursary to one learner interested in changing career or returning to the workplace.” 

Find out more about NEC at 60.

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