Improved quality for students and colleges

The financial health of Scotland's colleges continues to improve, as does the quality of students' experience there. These are among the plethora of findings from the annual performance indicators on colleges, published last week by the Scottish Funding Council.

Nine out of 10 colleges recorded an operating surplus in 2006-07, over four times the 2000-01 figure.

The all-important figure of surpluses or deficits as a proportion of colleges' total income stands at 3.3 per cent to the good, compared with 1 per cent four years ago. There is considerable variation: from a surplus in Coatbridge College representing 9.3 per cent of its income to a deficit in Elmwood College amounting to 2.1 per cent of income.

The funding council cautions against using these PIs to make "inappropriate comparisons" between colleges. There can be marked variations from year to year, it says, but these do not necessarily reflect better or worse performance.

The council urges users of the PIs to feel the quality as well as the width, and it notes the results of the "On Track" study of FE student satisfaction which showed that 80 per cent would choose the same college and the same course if they had their time again. The council data also cites employer satisfaction from surveys which suggest that 75 per cent are happy with the college graduates they have recruited.

Colleges earn another pat on the back from the funding council for meeting their student recruitment targets - 41 of the 43 did so.

Of those recruited, 96 per cent progressed past the first quarter of their study programme. Of that number, 87 per cent completed their course, varying in the incorporated colleges from 96 per cent in North Glasgow College to 78 per cent in Ayr, Coatbridge and Cumbernauld colleges.

There are even wider variations in the numbers who progress to a second year in incorporated colleges, from 52 per cent in Perth to zero in South Lanarkshire and West Lothian.

Elmwood College comes out top for the number of permanent full-time staff with a teaching qualification - all of them have one. In Glasgow Metropolitan, only 74 per cent are qualified teachers.

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