Loretto pupils will attend lectures in link-up with Napier University

ONE of Scotland's most prestigious private schools has agreed a formal link-up with a university, in what is thought to be the first of its kind in Scotland.

Loretto pupils will attend business lectures at Edinburgh Napier University next year as part of a scheme to give senior school students an edge in the fight for a university place.

The principal of the Musselburgh independent school this year praised Edinburgh Napier over Oxford and Cambridge for excelling in areas such as business studies.

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Barry Neilson, the head of student affairs at Edinburgh Napier, said Loretto, which taught BBC journalist Andrew Marr and former chancellor Alistair Darling, was one of 75 schools that the university had met with.

He said: "Loretto is the first in terms of a solid agreement. We want to make sure we have very strong relations with schools and, where possible, make Edinburgh Napier the first-choice university. One of the things we focus on is employability of our graduates, which in the current market is even more important."

Napier is in the top ten universities in the UK for employability, with more than 97 per cent of graduates working or in further study within six months.

Under the scheme, senior Loretto pupils will attend first-year or second-year lectures in business and engineering alongside university students. Pupils could also join university tutorials, alongside a special project and taster days.

Mr Neilson said: "This is the first programme – it's a pilot – and if it's successful it could be rolled out to other schools."

Barry Cooper, the director of studies at Loretto, said between 50 and 100 pupils would likely benefit: "Members of our staff will be talking to their staff, so that provides the benefits of knowing what the university is looking for in potential students in those subjects.

"I've not heard of another school doing something like this. It's an opportunity not just to push the kids academically, but also to give them an experience and more responsibility and broaden their horizons you can't always get in the classroom.

"They will be getting that extra edge, especially in the next five years when universities are going to be looking for those little bits and pieces some students have that others don't," Mr Cooper said.

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"Napier is leading the way in business and engineering and not every student is going to want to go and study English literature at Cambridge. It's a great Scottish university, that is forward thinking, and we are really proud to have an association with them."

Last month, the principals of both Loretto and Merchiston Castle independent schools said they were encouraging pupils to look beyond Oxford and Cambridge to new universities.

Andrew Hunter, headmaster of Merchiston, described the university as vastly improved and said: "Employers have turned their nose up in the past, but Napier is a rapidly improving university and, for some people, the perfect place to go."

Peter Hogan, headteacher at Loretto, said: "Napier is definitely excellent for business and engineering. There will always be people who are focused on Oxford, Cambridge or St Andrews and Durham – and they have the best courses in some areas – but the employment market today is very different."

Dr Jenny Rees, vice-principal academic at Napier, said the university was delighted to receive ringing endorsements from such prestigious schools.