A GROUP of young people was given their first taste of the opportunities offered by a university education at a camp run by a groundbreaking project that aims to raise the aspirations of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The 15 secondary school pupils spent three days at Strathclyde University learning about student life and the courses higher education has to offer as they took part in a programme run by MCR Pathways.

The MCR Pathways project works to provide mentors to vulnerable children and is seeking more adult volunteers.

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The summer school at the university is another strand of the project that allows some children to experience first-hand what further education involves and to ask questions of students and lecturers about their work.

The group was introduced to subjects such as chemistry, law, psychology and business while also learning about student finance and the entry requirements needed for a degree.

They were also assembled into teams to take part in mini-challenges using what they had learned and produced presentations on their week at a graduation ceremony.

Children who had gone through the programme last year also returned to help with this year's group, while students at the university volunteered to mentor them through the project.

Iain Mitchell, acting director of the Innovative Roots to Learning programme at Strathclyde University and an MCR Pathways Pioneer, said it was important to identify a vulnerable child as early as possible.

He said: "What is really positive about this project is that all the children from this age range have the potential to get into university and we can show them the practicalities and make sure that the thought of entering higher education is not daunting form them.

"It also re-energises their school studies as they have a goal to aim for to get the qualifications needed to enter university and follow the subjects they have identified."

Archie Deans, 64, a retired deputy headteacher from Glasgow who has started mentoring one of the children on the summer school, said that helping a young person reach their potential was very rewarding. He said: "Being a mentor is a very positive experience and it is very enriching for the mentor as well as the young person.

"I'm out of my comfort zone slightly, but not because of the young people. They are not different than other young people and it's important not to label them as such. If I can be a positive influence then that's all to the good."

The MCR Pathways mentoring scheme operates in six schools in Glasgow's east end and has already been instrumental in helping youngsters from chaotic backgrounds turn their lives around.

In 2012 fewer than 10 per cent of adults living in the most deprived communities held degree-level qualifications, compared with 40 per cent living in the most affluent areas. Meanwhile, almost 80 per cent of "looked-after" children left school at the minimum age, compared with fewer than one-third of all children in Scotland.

The average age young people leave home is 24, but for children in care, the age is 17 - exactly the time when they need the most input and support to make the best decisions about further education.

Stephen Curran, the executive member for education and young people at Glasgow City Council, attended the graduation ceremony alongside former First Minister Jack McConnell.

Councillor Curran said: "This is a fantastic opportunity to give these young people a glimpse of something that we want them to experience in the future. There's a big push at Glasgow City Council to raise levels of attainment for all pupils across the city, and events like this bring all that together."

Watch a video of MCR Pathways Mentoring here.