They show a 17 per cent increase in numbers overall, with just a 4 per cent rise in the numbers of full-timers. Professor David Melville, the FEFC chief executive, said they "confirm colleges' outstanding success", particularly in attracting more adults.
But the Association of Colleges urged caution. "The ISR is not the most wonderful system invented and a lot of colleges are still having trouble with it," said a spokesman. "Most have doubts about the year-on-year changes. "
Figures are based on returns from 327 out of 438 colleges and 205 out of 325 other institutions given FEFC funds.