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Northern exposure to university

SIXTH-YEARS who might not consider higher education are getting a taste of university life as part of an innovative project in Dundee on information literacy.

School and university libraries have worked closely to improve pupils' information literacy. In doing so, they have exposed the pupils to university life and given them skills that will prove crucial in higher education.

The work between Abertay University and Menzieshill High started in 2002 and was initially more narrowly focused, on computing. It has since expanded to take on a wider series of skills under the heading of information literacy; last year Braeview Academy and Baldragon Academy became involved.

The project takes place for about 40 hours over 11 weeks. Staff were surprised to see how reliant the pupils were on internet-based resources such as Wikipedia, when looking for information.

Menzieshill librarian Elspeth Scott said that, before taking part in the project, even the most able pupils tended not to appreciate the difference between Wikipedia and resources with more reliable quality control, such as the BBC website or Encyclopedia Britannica.

The project helps form a more critical appreciation of sources of information but, importantly, it also provides pupils with access to the university and demystifies higher education in the process.

The joint work has helped overcome a divide that was bigger than many realised.

"We were shocked that universities and schools didn't talk to each other all the time," said Christopher Milne, a librarian at Abertay University.

The project has had several benefits. "For most of our pupils, the idea of going on to university is not something they think is for them they'll say, 'It's something for other people,'" said Miss Scott.

Many of the same pupils have responded well to the project and changed their mind about applying for university.

School and university librarians have gained a greater under-standing of each other's work and the university's library, which is otherwise largely empty over the summer, has a steady stream of school-age visitors.

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