A GIFTED but profoundly dyslexic boy of 15 became the youngest student in modern times to attend Cambridge University yesterday when he started his first term at Peterhouse.
Alexander Faludy, who will be reading theology and the history of art, arrived five days before his 74 fellow freshmen to allow him time to settle in, said Jane McLarty, the university's disability adviser.
She said: "There is quite a lot of work to be done, introducing him to his personal supervisors, organising rotas and things and you don't want to have to do that at the same time as meeting your tutors."
He has been allocated a room in college lodgings overlooking one of the city's parks, where he will be "looked after" by two resident housekeepers. Mrs McLarty said: "The two housekeepers live on the same floor as Alexander so they will be mother figures for him. The senior tutor is officially in loco parentis. I have met Alexander a couple of times and he seems very mature. He has a pleasant personality and we are going to do our best to support him."
Alexander, whose IQ is 179, was accepted at the college in January. He is thought to be the youngest undergraduate since William Pitt the Younger, in 1773. His parents, Andrew and Tanya, fought a High Court battle for special funding from Portsmouth borough council. They lost, only to be told that the council would give Alexander a disabled student grant worth more than £11,000 a year.
Alexander can write only two words a minute in a scrawl only he can read. He also has dyspraxia, "clumsy child syndrome". His parents, who are teachers, realised how bright he was when at the age of three, he was able to recite verbatim tapes of Thomas the Tank Engine. At nine, he became the youngest person to pass an English literature GCSE, passing his A-level in the subject at 11.
The college waived its normal entry requirements after he dictated essays on the rationalist argument for the existence of God and the influence of classicism on the work of the 16th-century Italian architect Andrea Palladio.
Peterhouse has recorded his textbooks on tape to make his course easier. The tapes will be supplemented by readers who will give him personal assistance and a college supervisor will see him once a week to discuss any academic problems. Mrs McLarty said: "We have got quite a good support network. Peterhouse is quite a small college, it's friendly and cosy and we are quite confident he will be included. I'll probably visit him more often than I normally would until he has gradually found his feet. Being 15 makes him different from most undergraduates and the college is very well aware that they are in loco parentis and will make a special effort."
The college is keen to use computers to help him in his studies, Mrs McLarty said. "He's obviously very motivated and can work on his own. If, after three years, we haven't made him more independent, then to some extent we will have failed."
25 September 1998: Dyslexic boy given University sponsorship
26 August 1998: Dyslexic boy loses claim for college aid