Colleges want an admissions service for FE
Further education colleges have called for their own version of Ucas, the admissions service for higher education.
Having a service that provided a centralised registration database would help colleges deal with problems such as demand for places outstripping supply, principals told TESS.
The collection of intelligence around applications would make it possible to identify students who had applied for courses at more than one college and show clearly how many applicants to FE were left without a place, they said.
The proposal comes after figures reported earlier this week showed as many as 10,000 Scots were still on college waiting lists hoping for a place, despite most courses starting this month. But in the current system, there is no way of telling whether some applications have been duplicated across a number of institutions.
At City of Glasgow College alone, there were about 8,000 applicants without a place last week, The Herald reported. Principal Paul Little said that number had been significantly higher before the college put on extra courses to accommodate demand.
At Motherwell College, just over 800 applicants were still on the waiting list this week, and this number was unlikely to change significantly, a spokesman for the college confirmed.
About 2,000 applicants were yet to find a place at North Glasgow College. "There are more people looking for places than we have available," said its principal, Ronnie Knox.
This was down to a variety of reasons - a lot of applicants on the waiting list were older students outside the government's 16- to 19-year-old priority group, said Mr Knox.
The spike in demand comes as the sector faces unprecedented budget cuts: 10 per cent to the teaching grant last year; 8 per cent this year; and more cuts expected in the coming years.
Robin Parker, president of NUS Scotland, said that it was "extremely concerning to see large numbers of potential college students sitting on waiting lists rather than preparing for classes".
"If it turns out that colleges, for whatever reason, are unable to provide as many places as in previous years, we'd expect urgent action from the government and college management."
But education secretary Michael Russell insisted that overall funding for colleges had risen this year and the government had "an unshakeable commitment" to ensuring young people got the best chance to fulfil their potential.
"We have funded the same level of college learning as last year and every 16- to 19-year-old in Scotland is guaranteed an offer of a place in education or training through Opportunities for All," he added.
A Scottish government spokesperson added that partners across the country, including Skills Development Scotland and Jobcentre Plus, were working together and joining up with local authorities, employers and colleges to identify where opportunities exist for young people and help match them "with the opportunity that is right for them".
Work in this area would be accelerated in the coming weeks with the launch of a single contact point for young people and additional resources for employers.
But John Henderson, chief executive of Scotland's Colleges, said the success of colleges in attracting large numbers of applications highlighted just how big a challenge it would be for the Scottish government to deliver on that pledge of a guaranteed place, particularly when funding for teaching was being reduced year on year.
Mandy Exley, current principal of Jewel and Esk College, will become principal of the newly merged Edinburgh College after it is launched on 1 October. Her appointment follows a selection process which included the leaders of the new student body in the college.