The name of the game is outreach, taking courses wherever the market happens to be. Community-based provision by colleges is now extensive, HMI found.
Overcoming barriers to learning, whether these are transport, child care or psychological, is the main challenge facing outreach programmes. A 1994 report from the Scottish Community Education Council, Open All Hours?, defined a community college as one which "is particularly aware of the uncertainty and insecurity experienced by many potential students as they contemplate a return to learning".
A MORI poll last year on attitudes to learning found that, while 71 per cent of adults believed learning was a passport to a better life, 63 per cent said they had no intention of taking up any kind of course over the next year.
Mindful of the problems some colleges, notably Perth, Jewel and Esk Valley and Motherwell, have virtually gone into the transport business. Both use buses to take information, advice and courses into local communities.
Motherwell has run a "mobile classroom" for more than six years and offers access level courses in up to 50 communities in a wide scattering of towns and villages throughout North and South Lanarkshire. It prides itself on a collection of laptops which go "anywhere there are plugs", Bob Wilson, the college's community liaison officer, says.
Angus College in Arbroath, serving a very different farming and market town hinterland, is more discrete, enticing women returners into two refurbished centres in Forfar and Montrose. They offer full-time National Certificate courses in office and business administration.
Angus has now expanded into Brechin with a wide range of part-time and leisure courses, from computing to arts and crafts, languages and Scottish history.
Outreach with a difference is found in the Western Isles where Stornoway-based Lews Castle College has put details of its project to bring FE to the Uists and Barra on to the Internet. Western Isles Enterprise has pledged Pounds 350, 000 for an FE centre in the southern isles, but this depends on the European Commission agreeing to put in Pounds 700,000.
A decision is expected by the middle of December. If the news is good, Scotland will have its newest FE facility within two years.
Lews Castle has endorsed a number of part-time training programmes and short courses in the smaller islands. But the first full-time FE course began only last month when eight students began a GSVQ level II in care.
Gordon Wells, the FE development officer, says numbers had to be restricted because of the cramped conditions in Sgoil Lionacleit, the local secondary in Benbecula.