Scottish colleges enrol more schoolchildren

Increases in enrolments, as well as success and completion rates, revealed in Scottish Funding Council statistics

Julia Belgutay

scotland FE support staff colleges success enrolment school

Scotland’s colleges have once again exceeded their delivery targets as they have seen an increase in the number of primary and secondary schoolchildren enrolled at FE institutions.

According to college statistics published by the Scottish Funding Council this morning, both the number of total enrolments and total student headcount increased in 2017-18, compared with the previous year – by 3.9 per cent and 2.9 per cent respectively. These increases come against a backdrop of declining numbers of young people in the Scottish population as a whole.

Meanwhile, the number of total enrolments to non-recognised qualifications (NRQs) and courses under 10 hours in duration has increased in 2017-18 by almost a quarter in a single year – something that can be “at least, partly explained by an increase in the number of primary and secondary school pupils enrolled at colleges on these types of courses”, said the SFC.

“In 2017-18, school pupils accounted for 37.7 per cent of all NRQs and courses under 10 hours in duration. Of the 18,653 additional enrolments in 2017-18, 49.7 per cent can be attributed to school pupils and, specifically, 6,851 (36.7 per cent) from primary school enrolments alone.”

Impact of aapprenticeship levy

The introduction of the Flexible Workforce Development Funding (FWDF) – a fund introduced to help meet the needs of apprenticeship levy payers in Scotland, has also contributed to this, with these courses not generally leading to recognised qualifications.

The Scottish college sector has exceeded its delivery target every year since that target was introduced. In 2017-18, it exceeded that number by around 2,400 full-time equivalents (FTEs).

“This can be partly explained by the increase in core places delivered by colleges between 2016-17 and 2017-18, equivalent to over 1,000 [FTEs]. Furthermore, the FWDF was introduced in 2017-18, which provides college places for UK apprenticeship levy payers in Scotland."

According to the SFC, £10 million was made available to fund these places with the expectation of delivering around 2,700 FTEs. "In the first year of this fund, the colleges delivered places to a value of around £6.2 million worth of places rather than the full £10 million, equating to 1,743 FTEs rather than the projected 2,700.”

HE and FE provision

Part-time FE provision has reduced by 11,000 FTEs since 2008-9, while full-time HE provision delivery has increased by 25.6 per cent. Part-time HE has experienced the largest percentage change in the number of FTEs (-38.5 per cent) of all other provisions.

Also today, the Scottish Funding Council published performance indicators for the college sector, showing improvements on completion and success rates.

Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said the latest figures from the Scottish Funding Council revealed that colleges “are continuing to make good progress in key areas”. 

“The college sector provides a variety of flexible routes into a career, working with schools, universities and employers to ensure that the learner takes the route that is both right for them and as efficient as possible. Colleges are contributing significantly to inclusive economic growth in Scotland and delivering courses that support people to gain industry-relevant skills that lead to employment.”

'The strength of the college sector'

SFC chief executive Karen Watt said today’s statistics “underline the strength of the college sector, which is increasingly attractive to our young people while also offering excellent opportunities for those already in work to retrain or upskill”.

She added: “It is good to see increases in successful completion rates across the sector, while recognising the need to better understand why some students leave courses early.  It is also encouraging that success rates have increased for students from the 20 per cent most deprived areas and students with declared disabilities.”

Scotland’s FE minister Richard Lochhead said: “Once again our colleges have exceeded our target on full-time equivalent places, while continuing to offer opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to fulfil their potential. This means more students are gaining the education and valuable skills they need for success, and is a testament to the fantastic work being done in the college sector.

Scottish colleges: performance indicators

  • Some 66.1 per cent successfully completed their course – an increase of 0.8 percentage points over 2016-17 and is the highest success rate over the past 10 years.
  • In 2017-18, of the 26 colleges delivering full-time FE courses, 13 had improved success rates in comparison to the previous year. One college’s success rate remained unchanged.
  • 4,678 additional full-time FE students successfully completed their course in 2017-18 in comparison to 2008-09.
  • - A further 8.8 per cent completed their course in 2017-18.
  • - 25.1 per cent of full-time FE students withdrew from their course.
  • -FC’s national aspiration for full-time FE success is that by the 2019-20 academic year, the percentage of enrolled (full-time) students successfully achieving a recognised qualification should increase to 73.2 per cent.
  • In 2017-18, four colleges from 26 exceeded that rate target percentage.
  • - Of the 15 colleges delivering full-time HE courses in 2017-18, six had improved pass rates in comparison with the previous year.

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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