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An SFC insider talks us through why maths and numbers are so important this National Numeracy Day.

Banner image for Understanding and shaping the world through numbers


National Numeracy Day is the only day of the year where we’re able to really shout out about the importance of maths. Maths is often questioned when we’re younger as to whether it has real sustaining value in careers and employability. But in reality, maths and statistics form the basis on which so many valuable policies and programmes are created – not least when it comes to education.

It was through studying Economics at university that I first developed an interest in applying the statistical skills I had developed to inform and contribute to policy development. After spending a few years in the Financial Services industry following graduation, I was fortunate enough to secure a role in the analytical team at SFC which enables me to do just that.

At SFC, numbers play a valuable role in how we shape higher and further education policy. We have a dedicated and highly-skilled team of data analysts working alongside policy experts in our Policy Insight and Analytics team. The work of this team is becoming ever more important.  We have grown in the last two years, as has our ability to use statistical processes to make sure that SFC funds the areas that best meet the needs of learners and employers. 

Our team’s goal is to make the very best use of data we collect, to improve its value and to share its benefits as widely as possible. Our role is to share insights, knowledge and data that help the decision-makers in the Scottish Government, colleges, universities and elsewhere to develop future teaching and to research and innovate.

We work with a wide number of other organisations to collect data relevant to Scottish further and higher education and the economy. These include colleges, universities, the Scottish Government, HESA and UCAS. It is with this data that the best policies can then be formed.

Stats not only help influence policy but also give us an idea of the impact policies have on the sector. SFC publishes a range of Official and National Statistics covering further and higher education in Scotland. These support SFC’s work with colleges and universities to measure and improve performance across the sectors. We also maintain the Infact database, an open resource containing data on students and courses in Scotland’s colleges. Additionally, we manage a number of internal and external-facing business intelligence tools which bring the data we collect to life. This enables us to make statistics more than just a ‘headline’ figure; getting underneath the headline is crucial in providing insight on what is actually happening in further and higher education in Scotland.

Our analytical team is also currently playing a key role in supporting SFC’s Review of Coherent Provision and Sustainability and shaping the future of higher and further education.

As you can see, numbers and understanding them play a crucial part in SFC’s support for learners, the economy and wider society. For policy development, for performance management in colleges and universities, and for supporting the future economy, numbers – and the ability to understand what they mean – is crucial.

So next time you’re discussing the value of maths and numbers, remember that stats and how we use them play a crucial role in shaping the policies and investments that ensure Scotland can become the best place in the world  to learn, educate, research and innovate.

Have a happy National Numeracy day!