The Top-Up Programme works with around 1,200 S5 and S6 secondary school pupils annually who are planning to enter higher education (HE) after school, or are considering that option. The Programme has been designed to help pupils prepare for HE and make informed choices about their futures.

  • Facilitate progression to HE for school pupils from areas of low participation
  • Help pupils prepare for higher education
  • Equip pupils with key skills for successful study
  • Help pupils improve on existing skills
  • Introduce pupils to university campus life
  • Help boost pupils’ confidence in their own abilities
  • Help pupils make a smooth transition into student life
  • Help raise levels of achievement and attainment

Summary of Programme Activities
The Top-Up Programme runs from November to April each year, providing a ‘mini higher education experience’ for participating pupils. Trained postgraduate tutors recruited from across the FOCUS West HEIs facilitate ten sessions in schools and one held on an HEI campus.

Pupils are introduced to the essential skills, learning methods and environments with which they will need to be familiar to become successful HE students and effective independent learners.

Pupils choose an academic subject to study during the course, for which they participate in a seminar and complete a written assignment. The essential skills are taught via subject-specific and generic sessions. Work completed during school sessions is put into practice during the campus sessions.

‘Teaching Top-Up is very rewarding. The students gain noticeably in confidence throughout the Programme, and you know that the skills you are teaching will give them a strong foundation for their university studies.’ (Postgraduate Tutor)

Campus sessions give pupils the chance to:

  • practice note-taking during a university lecture
  • participate in an interactive feedback session using an electronic voting system
  • participate in a university seminar
  • experience using a university library and electronic library catalogue
  • find out about university support services
  • meet current undergraduate students

Pupils are assessed on their performance during the Programme and receive a certificate of completion and a student profile, giving feedback and grades in three areas: overall performance; seminar preparation and performance; written assignment. The profiles of all pupils who achieve 3 B grades or above are forwarded to the admissions officers of the HEIs to which they are applying. The profile is used as a measure of a pupil’s ability to perform successfully within HE and can be used, at the admission officers discretion, to adjust one Higher grade by one point.