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College Performance Indicators

A new report from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) has confirmed colleges in Scotland provided almost 118,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) places in 2020-21. According to the latest figures, colleges delivered 117,914 SFC-funded FTE places against a target of 116,269.

The report provides the most up to date picture so far for students who were unable to complete their studies because of the pandemic. This was often due to measures to protect students and staff which restricted access to on-campus learning at college facilities.

The situation had a disproportionate effect on students studying practical subjects such as hair and beauty, technology and construction. Colleges have been making special efforts to reconnect with these students, and over 90 per cent of those unable to complete their studies in 2019-20 had returned to college by 2021-22.

Students deferring their studies in 2020-21 did so within a more buoyant labour market, which may account for fewer of them (around six in ten) having returned to their studies by January 2022. However, work is continuing to ensure anyone wishing to return to college knows they have the opportunity to do so.

More employment opportunities may also have contributed to the small increase in full-time further education students withdrawing from their courses in 2020-21 (3 per cent) and the subsequent reduction (four percentage points) in the number successfully completing their course.

However, for full-time college students on HE courses, success rates increased by 2.3 percentage points and were slightly higher than previous years. Withdrawal rates for full-time HE students have returned to pre-pandemic levels. According to the report, this may be due to more resilience in coping with digital and self-directed learning during the pandemic.

Commenting on the report, James Dunphy, Director of Access, Learning and Outcomes at the Scottish Funding Council, said:

“The impact of the pandemic continues to be felt in our latest report on college performance. Colleges have been operating in the most challenging of circumstances and have gone to extraordinary lengths to make sure all students have had the best possible opportunity to reach their potential.

“During national lockdowns college staff and leadership teams showed an incredible amount of determination and creativity to keep students learning, and they continue to make huge efforts to re-engage students who deferred their studies – including providing support to alleviate the effects of the pandemic on mental health and poverty.

“SFC has been engaged throughout and I’m pleased that, with additional funding from the Scottish Government, we have been able to support colleges to deliver for learners over this period.

“This report shows the extent of what has been achieved in unprecedented circumstances and underlines the partnership which has existed across colleges, the Scottish Funding Council and government to support learners and learning at this most important time.”