A London council is paying the university tuition fees of some of its poorest students in what is the first scheme of its kind in the country.
Six school-leavers have been awarded scholarships worth more than £10,000 each over three years by Southwark council.
They are the first people in the country to have their university tuition fees paid for by their local council.
The money will come from the council’s £3million Southwark Youth Fund. It will also be used to pay for an allowance to those who lost out when the educational maintenance allowance was scrapped.
Only students whose parents earn less than £21,000 were considered for the tuition fee scholarship. The first sixth-formers were chosen because of their academic achievement and contribution to the community.
Beneficiary Dominique Manshadi, 18, who is studying maths at Queen Mary, University of London, mentored fellow pupils at St Saviour’s and St Olave’s School in New Kent Road.
She said: “This money means that I can devote a lot more time to my studies and continue to do the work that I love and enjoy in the community.
“I would still have gone to university, but this way it means I won’t have debt hanging over my head.
“I know friends who are already thinking twice about going to university next year when tuition fees are three times the price they are now.”
A survey has found that one in 10 A-level students has been put off university because of the tuition fee rise The BBC Inside Out/ComRes survey shows almost two thirds would consider apprenticeships instead.
The council has pledged to continue the scheme next year, when tuition fees at many universities will triple to £9,000 a year. A spokesman for Southwark, where the median family income is £17,000, said the cost of going to university is becoming a “significant deterrent” to pupils in the area.
Southwark was one of the worst-hit London boroughs by the summer riots, which a report has linked to disaffected young people growing up in poverty.
It comes after Greenwich council announced it will offer bursaries to poorer teenagers wanting to stay in full-time education. Teenagers in care, those claiming income support and disabled young people can apply for up to £1,200.
Education spending is expected to fall by 14 per cent in real terms by 2014/15, experts warned today. Schools and universities face the most severe budget cuts over any four-year period since the Fifties, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.