The initiative, developed by the University's Widening Participation team, has secured Aimhigher funding from the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) to enable further and higher education institutions across the country to run the programme for school children in their local areas.
Bill Rammell MP, Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, said: "Too many young people are missing out on the opportunity to study at university, because they are not introduced to the idea early enough. The University of Liverpool has created an effective model for engaging children in higher education, which will help alter access trends in this country.
"This supports the Government's aim to ensure 50% of young people in the UK enter higher education."
At the heart of the scheme is 'Professor Fluffy' – a colourful toy academic used as a teaching aid to educate nine and 10 year-olds about life at university. Professor Fluffy was first introduced to Greater Merseyside schools last year in an initiative funded by Aimhigher to encourage children in Years Five and Six to start thinking about the HE options available to them.
The children are taught a mini curriculum at the University in subjects such as medicine, using visual aids and active learning lessons. They are introduced to the vocabulary of HE and learn what it is like to train as a medic by working alongside University medical students participating in a number of activities linked to life processes, living things and facts about their own bodies.
Institutions across the country are being invited to apply to deliver the scheme to local schools. 65 institutions will receive training from the University of Liverpool as well as an Aimhigher Primary Project Starter Pack, access to an interactive website and a CD containing all teaching resources.
The project will form part of a nationwide initiative targeted at children in places that have a low level of HE participation in order to encourage them to consider university as an option.
Tricia Jenkins, Head of Widening Participation at the University of Liverpool, said: "Young people growing up in areas of low participation do so in a cultural climate which does not include an understanding or awareness of HE.
"This is reflected in recent HEFCE statistics which indicate that certain localities show deep divisions of HE participation chances: young people living in the most advantaged wards are five or six times more likely to go to university than young people living in the least advantaged areas. "The development of our Professor Fluffy programme will enable institutions in areas of low participation to encourage local children and parents to consider higher and further education when making career choices."
Notes to editors
1. The University of Liverpool is one of the UK's leading research institutions. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than £90 million annually.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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