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OU celebrates ten years of higher education in the classroom

YASS 10 year celebration

The Open University’s Young Applicants in Schools Scheme (YASS), which enables S6 pupils to study at university level in the familiar surroundings of their own school, is ten years old.

Having started as a pilot programme with 30 pupils in ten Highland schools in 2007, YASS has since reached more than 6,500 pupils from over 250 schools in every part of Scotland. 

YASS, which has almost 1,200 pupils from 142 schools participating this year, is Scotland’s largest and only national bridging programme between school and university. Thirty courses, from law to Mandarin, are offered flexibly online to students with the support of both the University and their school.

This helps schools, especially those in rural and remote areas, to offer a wider range of subjects to pupils and gives pupils the opportunity to try out study at university level, building confidence and developing aspirations.

Susan Stewart, Director of The Open University in Scotland, said:

“Widening access to higher education is central to everything The Open University does, and YASS means that pupils who may not have any experience of higher education in their family can try it out, allowing them to prove to themselves that, yes, they can study at that level.

“Accessible higher education is critical to Scotland’s social and economic wellbeing and YASS offers a nationwide route, from Shetland to Selkirk, for pupils to test their ambitions and improve their chances of progression to university.”

The anniversary was celebrated at Caldervale High School in Airdrie, which has been a long-standing partner school of the programme, where Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Minister for Higher Education, met a number of pupils studying through YASS.

Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, said:

“I’m very pleased to see the YASS programme in action, which recognises the advantages of engaging learners in higher education at an early opportunity.  

“The support provided through this programme will stand learners in good stead to apply to university and to adjust and flourish once they are there. I’m particularly pleased to note the focus of YASS on schools with low progression rates to higher education and will be interested to learn in due course about the impact upon widening access.

“The Scottish Government will continue to do all it can to widen access and ensure all of our young people, regardless of circumstance, are given the best opportunity to succeed.”

Karen Kubica, Head Teacher of Caldervale High School, said: 

“YASS offers a broader curriculum which helps meet the needs of our sixth year pupils. It offers an extensive range of subjects which otherwise would not be available within our school. 

“Participation in the programme gives students an excellent opportunity to take full responsibility for managing their learning and helps with preparation for university in terms of prioritising work, time management, meeting deadlines and working with tutors.

“Involvement in YASS has enhanced the confidence and aspirations of students who are encouraged by their success in completing first year university work and assignments.”

Cllr Frank McNally, Convener of Education at North Lanarkshire Council, said:

“The Young Applicants in Schools Scheme is a great initiative and allows pupils to take highly focused university level module courses in our schools.

“It promotes independent learning and helps support pupils’ entry to university. The partnership between the OU and our schools has been an outstanding success in providing young people with a valuable insight into the world of university they are about to enter.”

  • Pictured, left to right: Pupil Amy Forsyth; Karen Kubica, Head Teacher of Caldervale High School; Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science; OU in Scotland Director Susan Stewart; Pupil Amy Shields. Image by Andrew O'Brien Photography.

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