College students in Scotland fall by 26,000

Student numbers dropped most significantly during first Covid lockdown, says Scottish Funding Council
27th January 2021, 10:00am
Tes Reporter

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College students in Scotland fall by 26,000

https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/college-students-scotland-fall-26000
The Number Of College Students In Scotland Has Fallen By 26,000

The number of students at Scotland's colleges fell by almost 26,000 last year, according to figures released by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC).

There were 239,004 students enrolled at a college for the 2019-2020 academic year, down from 264,858 the previous year.

Since the start of the decade, the number of college students has fallen by more than a fifth (21.9 per cent) - a decrease of 66,965 from the 305,969 who were studying in 2010-2011.


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The SFC said student numbers dropped most significantly during April and May last year when Scotland was put into lockdown in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Its latest college statistics report also cites a 13.6 per cent decrease in the number of 18- to 19-year-olds in the Scottish population, but suggests attendances have "remained stable", with 20.9 per cent of them studying at college full-time.

Enrolments on short courses - those under 10 hours - had decreased by 37.8 per cent since 2018-19.

Labour: 'SNP has failed colleges over 14 years in power'

Responding to the figures, Scottish Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said: "It's all too clear that the SNP has failed colleges over 14 years in power and limited the future prospects of thousands of Scots as a result.

"On top of those 14 years of neglect, the pandemic has hit colleges hard, and if the sector is to survive this crisis and continue to provide the high-quality education and training vital to post-pandemic recovery, it is time for the SNP to start delivering sustainable funding for the sector.

"To rebuild from this pandemic we will need a high-skilled workforce. If the SNP is serious about our economic recovery, it must invest in our future workforce by supporting colleges now."

The Scottish Liberal Democrats' higher and further education spokeswoman, Jenny Marr, said: "The SNP have decimated Scotland's further education sector over the past decade.

"What's more, these figures show that cuts have hit part-time courses - most likely to be accessed by women and those from disadvantaged groups - the hardest."

She added: "It's easy to blame pandemic pressures but the numbers don't lie. Scotland's further education institutions have been under huge stress for the past 10 years.

"Not only does this deny talented Scots the chance to get on in life, it hurts our economy, too, by depriving key industries of the staff they need to thrive.

"The SNP need to reverse course now and ensure that everyone has access to the kind of education that is best for them."

'Colleges are continuing to deliver'

But further education minister Richard Lochhead said: "This data shows colleges are continuing to deliver - exceeding our target for providing learning and teaching, giving students recognised qualifications and providing a skilled workforce.

"They are an attractive option for Scotland's young people, with the proportion of 18- to 19-year-olds in college remaining broadly stable, and are essential in giving learners the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

"With colleges continuing to deliver the greatest proportion of learning activity in courses related to medicine, healthcare and health and safety, they are well placed to play their part in addressing the challenges that have been brought into sharp focus by the Covid-19 pandemic."

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