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New figures from the Scottish Funding Council have confirmed there were 332,815 higher education (HE) students in Scottish universities and colleges in 2020-21.

The numbers, the highest on record, reflect a rise of 8.3 per cent or 25,600 students, with the highest leap being at taught postgraduate level, which experienced growth of over 22 per cent compared with 2019-20.

According to the report, which was published today, the increase may be explained by graduates’ response to contracting labour market conditions at the time. For many new graduates, continuing on to postgraduate study became an attractive option. There was also a significant 5.1 per cent increase in students studying for a first degree.

Of the 163,710 students starting a higher education course in Scotland in 2020-21, just over three quarters were at university, with colleges providing for around 23 per cent of new starts. The university figure represents an increase of 12.6 per cent on the previous year and colleges are up by over 7 per cent.

Today’s report also shows that almost 70 per cent of students qualifying at HE level (SCQF level 7 and above) received a first degree or postgraduate qualification.

View the full HE Students and Qualifiers at Scottish Institutions 2020-21 report.