Interim findings of an audit of college waiting lists show the figures previously provided by colleges to be "wildly inaccurate", the government has said.
The audit was announced by education secretary Michael Russell in November, after a survey by Colleges Scotland reportedly showed about 21,000 people still waiting for a place at colleges across the country.
An update to MSPs on the final audit stated that 9 per cent of the combined waiting lists for participating colleges were duplicate records, a quarter of students had already enrolled at another college, and more than a third did not indicate that they still wanted a place when surveyed. But there are almost 6,000 students still on the waiting list.
"The combined waiting list fell by 72 per cent as a result of this initial analysis," the update said.
"In the one college where the audit is fully complete, less than 5 per cent of the people reported on the waiting list were actually waiting for a place at college," a government spokesman said.