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University students start BA in classroom

A Leeds school has found a radical way to bridge the daunting gap between school and higher education for sixth-formers. Chris Johnston reports

A GROUP of Leeds undergraduates will escape the stress of being a fresher by completing much of their first year in their school classrooms.

Twelve students are lined up for the revolutionary scheme, now in its second year - jointly run by Leeds Metropolitan University and Matthew Murray high school in the city's Holbeck area.

Seven of the school's former sixth-formers and one mature student have already passed the first year of the honours degree in business information management at the university.

The scheme is the brainchild of Alan Maybury from the university's faculty of information and engineering systems and staff at Matthew Murray.

They realised some sixth-formers did not have the self-esteem or parental support needed for a degree course. Maybury said some parents did not believe higher education was appropriate for their children or did not give them enough help.

A pound;25,000 resource centre kitted out with computers was built at the school and lectures were delivered on-site by academics and some Matthew Murray teachers. Funding has come from Leeds training and enterprise council, the university and the local education authority.

The aim is to extend the scheme to other parts of Leeds for between 40 and 50 students next year. The students will spend their first term in the centre and visit the university campus more frequently in the second half of the year. They will be assessed in the same way as their on-campus counterparts. According to the university, last year's students did better than average and will now complete the rest of their degree in the normal way.

Barbara Trayer, Matthew Murray's director of studies 14-19, said the initiative gave students the confidence they needed. She said: "They have achieved at the highest level when they didn't think they could compete."

Maybury said his colleagues backed the idea, regarding it as part of Leeds Metropolitan's mission to become more involved in the local community.

According to the most recent figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service the proportion of higher education applicants from well-off homes is up on last year, while the proportion from higher income households has fallen.

However, UCAS chief executive Tony Higgins has said that lower-income families are still "woefully under-represented" in higher education.

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