Claims about college waiting lists were 'wrong'
The final version of the Scottish government's survey of college waiting lists, published last week, said only 500 applicants - equivalent to 4 per cent of the combined waiting lists of the seven colleges surveyed - were still waiting for a place.
The report "confirmed that claims about college waiting lists were wrong", said education secretary Michael Russell.
"We have been clear from the start of this discussion, and through the interim findings presented in my update to MSPs in January, that the claim that thousands of students were being turned away from Scottish colleges was untrue," he added.
The government launched a survey of college waiting lists after Colleges Scotland raised concerns over thousands of students potentially missing out on places.
The report found that of the original 12,866 applications on the waiting lists of the seven colleges surveyed, 1,186 were duplicate applications and 3,323 were from students already enrolled at another college. Analysis by Skills Development Scotland showed that a further 1,702 were in education, training or work or no longer able to take up a college place.
"Of the 6,655 applicants who remained on colleges' lists following the data analysis, 8 per cent responded to the follow-up survey: 500 responded to say that they were still interested in a place at college; 36 responded to say that they were in education, training or work, or were no longer interested in a place at college; and 6,119 did not respond," the survey reported.
It acknowledged that a response rate of 8 per cent was "relatively low", but argued that "applicants still interested in a place at college would have been more motivated to respond than those who were not".
Labour education spokesman Hugh Henry said the report confirmed the existence of waiting lists.
"Even with this partial and superficial exercise, it still shows that there are thousands of young Scots waiting to get a college place," he said.
"Thousands of young people's frustrations and denied opportunities have been swept aside in 12 pages of excuses and flannel", he added, as he called for a "forensic piece of work" on all colleges to be carried out by Audit Scotland.
"For the SNP to argue that there is nothing of concern from a survey of more than 6,600 people when only 536 replied is beyond belief," he said.
Colleges Scotland chief executive John Henderson welcomed the government's commitment to "work with Colleges Scotland on improving the application process and overall data-handling for those wanting to enter colleges".
Unison and EIS unions have condemned 86 proposed job cuts as part of the merger of John Wheatley, Stow and North Glasgow colleges. More than 120 jobs have already being lost in the new Clyde College, according to Unison.