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Dundee taster course spreads some jam on a university place

Dundee senior pupils who might traditionally shun university are being encouraged to widen their options by linking up online and sampling an IT course normally followed by first-year students.

Thirty-three S5 and S6 pupils at St Saviour's High this week matriculated at Abertay University as part-time students in the latest project to increase participation in higher education. Individual passwords allow them to tap into the university network from their school or homes.

Only one pupil in four from Dundee enters higher education against a Scottish average of 31 per cent. Some 36 per cent of pupils leave at the age of 16.

The PALS scheme (Programme for Access and Learning in Schools) aims to open up the university experience to senior pupils and increae confidence in their chances of gaining a place.

Cate Ashley, St Saviour's assistant head, said the scheme was "enthusiastically endorsed by pupils and staff".

Eleven teachers have volunteered as online tutors and have been through two training sessions. Pupils were selected because of their previous links with an Abertay project. The latest scheme will allow pupils to log on to a basic IT course and give them access to the university's vast bank of resources.

Professor Jane Core, Abertay's online and distance learning expert, said:

"The support we are offering will help overcome one of the biggest hurdles to achievement they face - which is their own lack of confidence and their belief that university education might be beyond them."

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