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Scotland’s Colleges Attracting Increasing Numbers

Cover Photo credit: Borders College

29 Jan 2019

Scotland’s colleges have exceeded the Scottish Government’s target of 116,269 Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) by 2,415 FTEs in 2017-18 according to a new report published by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) today. The College Statistics 2017-18 also show an increase in the number of enrolments and in headcount which have increased by 3.9% and 2.9% respectively compared with the previous year.

These increases come against a backdrop of declining numbers of young people in the Scottish population as a whole. Between 2008-09 and 2017-18 the number of 18-19 year olds fell by approximately 8,000, yet the proportion of this age group choosing to study at college increased from 16.8% to 21.9% in the same period.

Colleges have also seen a rise in numbers across the older age groups, with increases of 10.2% and 7.0% in both the 31-40 year old and the 41-50 year old age groups respectively compared with the previous year. These results, which come following the introduction of the Flexible Workforce Development Fund, suggest a move to in-work learning and re-skilling or up-skilling as employers seek to address skills gaps.

Published alongside the College Statistics, SFC’s College Performance Indicators 2017-18 also indicate that inroads are being made in successful completion rates. Although there has been a slight drop (-0.3%) in success rates for those undertaking Higher Education courses in 2017-18 compared with last year, the success rate for those in Further Education has increased by 0.8%. Furthermore over the last 10 years there has been a 7.3% increase in successful completion for students enrolled on Further Education courses and a 7.4% increase for those enrolled on Higher Education courses.

Reflecting increasing trends over the past three years, the report also notes slight increases in successful completion rates for students from the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland (+0.4%) and for students with declared disabilities (+0.5%).

Commenting on the reports, SFC Chief Executive Karen Watt said:

“The results from the College Statistics and the College Performance Indicator Reports are hugely positive. They underline the strength of the college sector which is increasingly attractive to our young people while also offering excellent opportunities for those already in work to retrain or up-skill.

“It is good to see increases in successful completion rates across the sector, while recognising the need to better understand why some students leave courses early. It is also encouraging that success rates have increased for students from the 20% most deprived areas and students with declared disabilities. We look forward to working with the sector to identify how we can sustain and build on the improvements made in recent years.”