CARDIFF University is giving school pupils from Barry and the Vale an insight into university life through a new two-year programme aimed at those from vulnerable and disadvantaged backgrounds.

Step Up to University is a free academic scheme for college and sixth-form students offering a taste of higher education through an academic course, summer school and events. Pupils from Barry Sixth Form, Bryn Hafren Comprehensive, Llantwit Major Comprehensive School and Mary Immaculate High School are among those invited to take part.

Some 250 pupils and 100 parents from across south Wales are registered for the first session at Cardiff University on Wednesday, January 31.

Scott McKenzie, the university’s head of widening participation and community outreach, said: "The Step Up programme offers practical support as well as tailored guidance and advice for those with the ability to succeed at higher education.

"We aim to help remove the barriers to higher education faced by these groups and equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to reach their potential at university."

The pupils signed up to take part in an academic course designed to improve the skills and knowledge needed to study at university level. Through the monthly sessions, the young people will develop presentation, analytic and research skills.

The young people choose from five streams - social sciences, life sciences, health sciences, physical sciences and humanities – and the sessions will run once a month between now and the end of May.

The programme includes a summer school in July where the pupils who have successfully committed to the scheme will be invited to stay overnight in halls of residence.

Subject to terms and conditions, those taking part who later go on to study at Cardiff University will be offered a means-tested bursary.