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The latest overview of college statistics from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) includes details of a significant increase in the uptake of part time further education opportunities.

According to the report, which was published today, part-time activity in Scotland’s colleges increased by 10.8% in 2021-22. The rise reflected an appetite to improve existing skills and learn new ones as the economy emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, college enrolments rose by 16% in 2021-22 compared to the 2020-21 figure, partly driven by increased enrolments in bespoke training courses and in courses introducing people to further study. This included a considerable increase in enrolments on courses lasting fewer than 10 hours, reflecting colleges’ responsiveness to upskilling and re-skilling needs.

An underlying factor behind the increases was the gradual return to on campus, face-to-face learning, meaning practical and work-based courses could re-start after the hiatus of the pandemic. This allowed students who had deferred their studies in the previous year to go back to college.

Despite these rises, college participation rates were down by 1.6 percentage points as more Scottish school leavers accepted university places. These included an additional 2,500 places funded in response to SQA’s alternative exam grading model for that year.  School leaver options were further increased by the labour market recovery.

Commenting on the figures, Martin Boyle, SFC’s Director of Policy, Insight & Analytics, said:

“Today’s report presents a picture of a college sector emerging from the effects of the global pandemic. In 2021-22 colleges were still coping with the practical challenges created by the lock-downs and subsequent restrictions. At the same time, they were supporting students and staff in their return to campus.

“The resilience and flexibility of the sector are illustrated very clearly in its ability to respond to the changing needs of both employers and learners, including students who had deferred their studies the year before.

“Another finding that stands out is colleges’ continuing commitment to supporting the skills and training needs of Scotland’s care sector with almost a third of learning activity being dedicated to this important area.”

College Statistics 2021-22 is available from today.