EIGHT young Scots with learning disabilities are enrolling at Strathclyde Business School, in what is claimed to be a national first.

The group will be paired with third year students for support, and given extensive work placements, in the partnership between charity Enable Scotland, Strathclyde University and Scottish Power.

Last year only 56 pupils with learning disabilities went on to higher education in Scotland, a little over one in ten of those leaving school,compared with 40 per cent of all school leavers who go to university.

Under the new Breaking Barriers scheme eight 18-24 year olds who all have learning disabilities will study for a Certificate in Applied Business Skills, with eight weeks in the classroom studying digital and social media marketing, people management and customer service, and eight weeks on placement.

Jamie Rutherford, director of employment for Enable Scotland said it was the a ground-breaking development for those with aspirations to attend university.

"Not enough people with learning disabilities think it is possibly and not enough people tell them it is possible," he said.

"Attending university isn't just about learning, it is a passage into adulthood. Young people get the chance to live away from home, have relationships, make lifelong friend, mabye even eat beans on toast every day for a month.

"It is a fast track to independence but it is something too few people with learning disabilities are aspiring to and that's because we are not showing them that it is possible.

"Each of our inspirational learners is truly breaking barriers and I hope many more students will follow in their footsteps."

Anthony McGinley, of Glasgow, was born with underlying medical conditions including a heart defect and hydrocephalus: a build up of fluid on the brain, It was only after he left school that he was also diagnosed with autism.

“Throughout primary and secondary school, I felt different, had a tough time making friends and never really felt like I fit in," he said. "As I watched my class mates discover subjects and activities that they loved, I used to panic that I wasn’t doing the same. I had to work so much harder than everyone around me and even with all of that effort, I was still barely treading water. My school work suffered and I suppose eventually I gave up trying."

Now he is looking forward to carving out a new niche for himself, he says.

"I’m going to work hard to prove myself and show people what I’m capable of and that people like me can go to university and make a go of it.

“More than anything else I can’t wait to meet new people and get involved with the social side of being a student. It’s a fresh start.”

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, vice chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, said: "Strathclyde is committed to being socially progressive. This also means being inclusive and opening higher education to all. This is the first University-led programme for people with learning disabilities and will help build the skills and enhance the job opportunities of participating students."

Scottish Power HR director Hamish Watson added: "We're proud to be part of such an exciting new programme and to provide real corporate work experience for these young people."