SIXTH formers will be able to study A-levels at the University of Essex for the first time in its 50-year history.

The Wivenhoe campus is to allow teenagers at six schools from around Colchester and Tendring to spend one day a week there studying a specialist subject.

Spaces will be available for about 200 pupils, with the first intake starting in September.

Pupils taking four A-Levels, for example, will be allowed to continue to study three of those subjects at their school sixth forms and the fourth will be at the university on a Tuesday.

Catherine Hutley, principal of Philip Morant School and College in Colchester, which is one of the schools taking part in the VI6 Partnership, said: “We all have challenges in retaining or recruiting students to our sixth forms.

“Our partnership with the university offers students the full campus experience and the opportunity to mix with students from other schools.

“Graduates and lecturers will be able to work with young people to help support and develop their aspirations.”

Seven courses will be available – law, geography, philosophy and ethics, history of art, further maths, economics and French.

There will be space for about 25 students per course.

Entry requirements will remain at what each school currently requires for its sixth forms, although top grades will be required for a subject being taken at the university. Courses will have a lead tutor and deputy from each of the schools.

Nardeep Sharma, principal of Colne Community School and College, Brightlingsea, which is also part of the partnership, said this meant no extra money had to be spent on new staff or resources.

He added: “I think this could be replicated across the country as a model.”

Other schools involved are Clacton County High School, Clacton Coastal Academy, Thurstable School and Harwich and Dovercourt High School.

Miles Bacon, head of Thurstable School, in Tiptree, said: “It is the best of both worlds – a national first and a model of how schools and universities can work together to develop outstanding opportunities for young people.”

Colchester’s biggest sixth form centre is the college on North Hill and has more than 3,000 students.

Other options for students include the Colchester grammar schools and Colchester High School.

Jules Pretty, university deputy vice-Chancellor , said: “Students from our partner schools will become part of our university community and will have the chance to learn and work like a university student and benefit from our facilities.

“To support them they will have the opportunity to interact with current university students.

The students will also be experiencing university style lectures and seminars with leading academics.”