Hundreds of public school students in their final years will be given additional tuition by academics from the University of Cambridge - one of the most prestigious institutions in the world - as part of a pilot scheme to mitigate educational disruption caused by the pandemic.
The 17-month programme for around 750 maths, physics and chemistry students will include online tutorials, small group supervisions, mentoring, and a residential stay at a Cambridge college.
From January, students will be supported through the 'STEM SMART' scheme from the second term of Year 12 to their Year 13 A-level examinations in a bid to help bridge attainment gaps caused by COVID-19.
The pilot programme also aims to build confidence in disadvantaged students and encourage them to apply to study engineering or physical sciences at leading universities, including Cambridge.
Students who take part in the scheme will be invited to stay at a college in the city for four days, where they will experience life as a Cambridge student.
Most selective universities are under pressure to improve access to higher education for different groups of students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
State school students who are eligible for the scheme are likely to live in areas of high deprivation, have been entitled to free school meals during secondary schooling, be care-experienced, or attend schools unable to offer further mathematics as an A-levels.
Professor Stephen Toope, vice-chancellor at Cambridge, said: "COVID continues to exacerbate existing inequalities in education, and many schools face an unprecedented challenge dealing with the legacy of the pandemic.
"This is support for those talented students who need it most, at a time when it is needed more than ever."
Australian Associated Press