Scheme seeks to demystify campus experience

August 21, 1998

In the third of our series, Olga Wojtas looks at access to higher education in Scotland

About 100 students are on the nine-week summer school organised by Leaps, Lothian's Equal Access Programme for Schools. It targets schools where few pupils go on to higher education, encouraging senior pupils to continue their studies, with trained undergraduate volunteers helping to remove the mystique of university.

The scheme negotiates with admissions staff across the United Kingdom, and its summer school is unique in Europe in being open to pupils with offers for any degree course anywhere in the country.

Last year 117 pupils completed the school, with 100 taking up higher education places, 91 of them dependent on their summer school report. The school simulates a typical first term in higher education, backed by a compulsory course in study and personal skills development.

But Leaps director Elspeth Turner revealed that senior pupils show growing reservations in the wake of the government's proposed funding changes. Alongside the alleged desire to widen access, they see government asking students whose parents are least able to subsidise them to shoulder the biggest debt, and limiting choice by making it more expensive to study away from home.

"Student cynicism is at an all-time high in the schools we work in,'' she said.

"Tuition fees are not the issue for many students who would be first generation entrants to higher education.

"The key issue for the better informed among them is loans, and whether they are prepared to graduate with a burden of debt larger than many households earn in a year."

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