Cambridge and UCL to coach state pupils on winning places

Role model: Lily Denis, a student at Pembroke college
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Children at inner city schools are to be given coaching from top universities to inspire them to apply.

University College London and Cambridge are teaming up to help teenagers in Southwark win places on their courses.

Twenty-five pupils in the borough from families where nobody has been to university before have been selected to take part in the new scheme, which aims to help state pupils reach their potential.

The group of 12 and 13-year-olds will visit UCL and two Cambridge colleges every term for the next five years. They will learn about the benefits of going to university, and will be taught writing and presentation skills to boost their confidence when applying.

A spokeswoman for UCL said Southwark was chosen because there are a large number of students there who come from families with no history of going to university.

Dr Adam Smith, senior lecturer at UCL, said pupils must start thinking about whether they want to go to university at the age of 12 or 13. If they leave it until they are 18 it may be too late, because they may not have prepared themselves properly.

Pembroke college has been linked to Southwark since the 1880s when a group of undergraduates set up a centre for social action in Walworth. It has been paired with Southwark, along with St Catharine's College Cambridge, under a scheme that links every college with an area of the country.

Dr Caroline Burt, admissions tutor for Pembroke, said: "We're here for the long haul and this project shows how committed we are to supporting bright pupils from the state sector." Schools in Southwark have nominated their 25 most promising students for the scheme, named Ambitions. Lily Denis, a student at Pembroke who is from Peckham, joined UCL students Daniel Hdidouan and Sharon Narh to speak to the 25 students.

Ms Denis, 20, who went to St Saviour's and St Olave's school, is in her third year of a zoology degree. She said: "Being here is very challenging, but the skills I've learnt and the social experiences have been incredible."

The project is organised by the universities alongside Excellence in Southwark, a scheme for gifted children. Pauline Hinchliffe from the scheme said: "We have many highly motivated and able students in Southwark and this is an exciting opportunity."

Cash boost for bright students

A scholarship scheme launched today will give 30 bright students money to pay their way through university.

The Reuben Foundation will pay more than £780,000 to help teenagers from poor backgrounds study for degrees.

The foundation, which makes charitable donations on behalf of philanthropist brothers David and Simon Reuben, will pay for 15 scholars to go to University College London, and 15 to go to Oxford. The students in London will each receive £10,000 a year, while those going to Oxford will get £7,500, which they can put towards tuition fees or living costs.

Lisa Reuben of the Foundation said: "When the cost of attending university is rising, we hope this programme will inspire those who thought it was closed to them."

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