DISADVANTAGED teenagers in Tower Hamlets, east London, are missing out on university places after a local project was axed, according to a college principal.
The scheme took youngsters by coach to university campuses in an attempt to break down barriers to higher education.
Project workers had spent more than a decade cultivating contacts with university admissions tutors and fighting to get places for youngsters.
The project was run by careers company Futures Careers Guidance and involved a partnership of schools, business sponsors and further education. It stopped after council funding was axed.
Towards its end, the project was finding places for some 500 students a year, said its former co-ordinator Christine James.
"At the beginning, very few young people went to university from Tower Hamlets. There wasn't really the culture of going. So we set out to break that idea down that you couldn't go - it wasn't for you."
One of the partners was Tower Hamlets College. Principal Annette Zera said that despite improving A-level pass ates, youngsters in Tower Hamlets are now missing out on university places.
"This seems to me absolutely fundamentally the business of any careers service, never mind who's paying for it," she said.
"If you have a son or daughter of this age and they slip a grade or two, you just say to them, 'pick up the phone and ask if they'll have you anyway'.
"But in Tower Hamlets our young people go home and they probably don't say anything except 'I'm not going to go after all'. So it's a very critical intervention which used to be there on a scale where it made a large difference."
Nigel Smith, chief executive of Futures Careers Guidance, said the company has tried to retain some of the scheme's elements, but on a smaller scale.
"Not all of it stopped, but clearly some of the peripheral parts were not able to continue," he said.
"I'm going to get a proposal this year to see if we could reintroduce some of those elements.
"We've continued to do the work of helping people get into university and do the clearing approach."