Access is given the third degree

November 10, 2000

Higher and further education institutions are joining with local authorities in Aberdeen and the northeast of Scotland to create a pioneering third "university" for the region.

The 3sixtyº University for Children and Communities (UCC) aims to persuade youngsters and adults that learning can be fun, interesting and improve the quality of life.

The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council has given the project £124,000 annual start-up funding for four years.

UCC students will become involved in visits, IT activities, challenges, local learning, research and discussion classes tailored to local communities.

The initiative is a partnership between the North Forum for Widening Participation in Higher Education, Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council. The North Forum brings together all universities, colleges and organisations involved with education and training in the northeast of Scotland.

Norman Deans of the Robert Gordon University, who chairs the North Forum, said: "The concept of community is vital in developing the project. This approach really challenges the traditional boundaries of primary, secondary and tertiary education.

"By taking this partnership approach, we can work together to include more people in education and research than ever before, regardless of their age or background."

The UCC vice-chairman, Melvin Dalgarno of Aberdeen University, said the region could boast postcode areas with the highest levels of higher education participation in Scotland, but it also had a number at the bottom of the Scottish tables. The project would target areas that had been shown to suffer particular problems.

Each year, the project will target all the schools in one area of the city and one area in the hinterland, where less than 12 per cent of school-leavers go to college or university. The aim is to see this rise to almost a third within three years, reaching 50 per cent by 2010.

The project dismisses charges that its targets are unrealistic, saying it would be failing the local communities if it set anything less challenging.

Aberdeen's lord provost, Margaret Smith, said: "The idea of a university for children and the community, which reaches out to sectors of the population who might otherwise miss out, is one that the city council wholeheartedly supports."

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