Access programmes for learners who have missed out on the standard route to university are failing to reach a significant proportion of adults who might benefit from university.
Stirling is moving towards a new approach with its pre-access pilot, which will enable learners to embark on a course that allows them to progress to either a Swap programme at college or the university's access programme.
The course, called Community Access to Mainstream Learning, is the first of its kind in the central belt. It is being run jointly by the university, Swap, Falkirk and Clackmannan colleges and the council, and targets disadvantaged groups such as the long-term unemployed, lone parents, low-income families and people with disabilities.
Starting with around 25 students, it will be based in a community venue in central Scotland and run for 20 weeks, six hours a week. Funding from the South East Scotland Wider Access Regional Forum will go towards a full-time project co-ordinator and childcare and transport expenses for students.
Learners are expected initially to be drawn from the existing community access programme. The course will include communications, confidence building, IT, learning and study skills and numeracy. It will feature a project focusing on identification of the next step, whether university or employment.