Mr Swinney was given a tour of the University’s library and laboratory facilities, which the pupils have full access to as ‘associate students’ of GCU.
The Minister met with sixth-year pupils Catherine Lawrence, Giorgio Manzi and Rachel Swinney, each studying between them eight Advanced Highers, and former Advanced Higher Hub pupil, Jonathan Kankolongo, who is studying Law at GCU.
The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills visited the city centre campus to learn more from pupils about their experiences and to hear from teachers and University staff about the delivery of the Hub, which has been credited for helping to prepare pupils to make the transition to university.
He said: “This is a great example of schools and universities working together to help highly able pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds to fulfil their academic potential.
“The achievements of the Advanced Higher Hub are impressive, with 92% of students in 2016/17 achieving a pass at Advanced Higher Level. Of the pupils involved, 70% come from the 40% most deprived areas of the country.
“It is a clear demonstration of how universities and colleges can make a positive contribution to both attainment and the widening access agenda.”
Catherine Lawrence, 17, from Castlemilk High School, said: “Without the support of the Hub, it would not have been possible for me to do three Advanced Highers, which I need for applying to study medicine. It’s helped me build my confidence and I’ve met new friends from across the city that are passionate about the same subjects. We support each other using social media and we have developed a really strong bond.”
Law student Jonathan Kankolongo also spoke of his journey to higher education and how it has shaped his University career.
Now in its fifth year, the widening-access initiative is a partnership between GCU, Glasgow City Council, and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC). A total of 145 pupils from 26 partner schools across Glasgow are studying Advanced Highers at the University. The Hub has also attracted support from the ScottishPower Foundation to provide 40 additional places in Biology and Chemistry.
GCU was the first university in Scotland to employ GTC registered teachers to deliver eight Advanced Highers in Biology, Business Management, Chemistry, English, History, Mathematics, Modern Studies and Physics.
Last year, pupils achieved an outstanding pass rate of 92%, in comparison to the national pass rate for the eight equivalent Advanced Highers, which stood at 79%. This builds on a trend set in previous years when, in 2015/2016, pupils achieved 91% with the equivalent pass rate of 81.7%, and, in 2014/2015, a pass rate of 90.5% was achieved with an equivalent pass rate of 81%.
Head of Outreach Eleanor Wilson MBE said: “The strength of the Advanced Higher Hub is in bringing together young people from across the city to widen access to higher education. It builds on GCU’s University for the Common Good commitment and our partnership approach allows us to work with others to raise aspirations and bridge the attainment gap. The Hub strives to level the playing field for young people applying to high tariff degree programmes like Medicine, Dentistry or Law, where Advanced Highers are part of the entry requirement. In addition, this unique year-long bridging programme provides pupils with greater confidence in their abilities, a genuine appreciation of the demands of university study, and the skills required to transition successfully to the degree course of their choice.”