The University of Leicester is taking part in an initiative to show life on campus to 55 youngsters from inner cities.
The 16 and 17 year olds are from areas in London and Birmingham where few family members or friends have been to university. The Department of Education funded week at the University is a pilot for regular familiarisation visits.
We are removing the mystique about higher education and giving support and encouragement to school students who are expected to gain above average A-Levels, said Kathy Williams, Academic Registrar at the University, who has helped to organise the visit.
She explained that the students were identified as talented and gifted, but they knew very little about what to expect at university.
Although widening access to higher education is the principle behind the Government initiative, this particular target student population needs the confidence and encouragement to apply, rather than any academic concessions, she said.
After taking their GCSEs this group of school students now has to decide what to do at the end of their school life. We hope that this summer school will introduce them to the variety of options open to them in higher education.
Summer schools are also being held at other universities which, like Leicester, select the best qualified students and the aim is to help the students feel confident that they will cope well with university life, said Ms Williams.
Paul Beavitt, who has co-ordinated the academic element of the course, said that the summer school had been very successful and there had been a noticeable shift in perceptions as the week had progressed.
Previously, many similar youngsters had the potential to go to university but, for one reason or another, would probably be unlikely to because no one in their family had gone. They were bright but did not think they were competent enough to study at a university.
Attempts have been made all week to give an experience of the kinds of activities that they would undertake at universities. Leicester graduates have acted as mentors to the students, and this has been one of the most successful aspects of the whole programme.
Playing five-a-side football, and entertainment in the Students' Union have also been on a programme which has included historical tours of Leicester, practical exercises in archaeology, a lecture on Star Wars and a sociology lecture on the London Marathon. They also had a skills and employability day and a visit to the Challenger Learning Centre.
NOTE TO NEWS AND PIX:
PHOTO CALL: New Building Lecture Theatre 3 at 11.45am on Friday, July 7, when all the pupils will be presented with certificates.
For further information please contact Kathy Williams on 0116 252 2419 or Paul Beavitt on 0116 252 2608.
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