Student numbers increased by 52 per cent since 1992-93, taking the total in 29 colleges to slightly more than 176,000 in 1995-96, according to figures from the Welsh funding councils for further and higher education.
Wales has seen particularly big growth in full-time post-19 student numbers, a joint report from the councils shows. But there is still a stereotypical gender split in subject choices.
The proportion of adults undertaking full-time courses rose steadily from a quarter in 1992-92 to a third on 1995-95. But women contributed to this growth to a much greater extent - their numbers grew by 68 per cent compared with the mens' 31 per cent.
The report said: "The most popular subjects of study for men were engineering and mathematicsscience and for females were businessmanagement and health."
Drop-out rates were significantly lower in Wales than in England (where rates of up to 50 per cent were recorded over any two years). "The overall retention rate for qualifications was 81 per cent (students either completing the qualification or continuing their study in the following year)," the report said.
There were 41,073 full-time or sandwich students on further education programmes in 1995-96. Part-timers accounted for 137,733 places.