Four Birmingham universities have joined forces to launch a programme to promote higher education to pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Aston University, Birmingham City University, the University of Birmingham and University College Birmingham will be working with more than 50 schools and colleges across Birmingham and Solihull where university applications are traditionally lower.
The move comes just four months after the national Aimhigher scheme, which saw universities working with pupils to give advice and guidance on university options, was scrapped in the wake of Government cuts.
The new initiative, which is also called Aimhigher, will see university staff and students mentor pupils, while residential summer schools and open days will be held at the four partner universities.
Some £400,000 of funding has been provided by the universities to run subsided activities.
Schools themselves will cover the remaining costs of their involvement in the programme, with many intending to use the new Government’s Pupil Premium funding, which is worth just under £500 per each pupil on free school meals.
Prof Mary Carswell, pro-vice chancellor at Birmingham City University, said: “With the end of the national Aimhigher national initiative, a number of us felt it was important enough to continue to do something.
“We felt young people in Birmingham deserved to have that help to raise their aspirations in thinking of higher education as an opportunity for them, because in some of the wards in Birmingham the take-up of higher education is extremely low.
“We are an area that needs this, and there was a worry that if we didn’t do something there would be a lot of people out there who perhaps wouldn’t have their aspirations raised.
“Schools can do so much but we have a part to play in working together in more of a partnership with the schools than perhaps the old Aimhigher model.”
The schools which have agreed to participate in the new scheme include Great Barr School, Wheelers Lane Technology College and Broadway School in Perry Barr.
Activities will include two-night “Unifest” residential summer schools, where Year 10, 11 and 12 students will have the chance to experience campus life.
And more than 100 mentors will work in schools to help support around 500 pupils.
Prof Carswell said that giving pupils help and guidance on higher education was “vital” in the wake of increased tuition fees of up to £9,000-per-annum kicking in from next year’’.