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The vital role colleges have for students and employers

By Shona Struthers, Chief Executive

Scotland’s 26 colleges continue to be the nation’s main provider of skills and the latest set of statistics demonstrates just how inclusive and important they are.

Colleges Scotland recently published its annual ‘Keyfacts’ booklet which highlights the vital role they have for so many students and employers.

Although the overall number of students has fallen from 239,000 in 2021 to 213,135 in 2022, the number aged 18-19 years has actually risen from 21% to 22%.

Around 69 million hours of learning were provided, 96% of which led to a recognised qualification, up 1% on last year.

Almost a quarter – 23% – of all higher education in Scotland is taught in colleges.  Higher education accounts for 44% of all activity in colleges, up from 42% last year, as students seek meaningful and recognised qualifications which prepare them for entry into the workforce.

The sector disproportionately supports those from the most challenged backgrounds, backing the Scottish Government’s strategy for eradicating child poverty, with 41% of full-time first-degree entrants from the 20% most deprived areas progressing to university after graduating from college.

Almost one-in-six students – 16% – has a recorded disability with 8,431 students suffering from dyslexia. And 83% of students with a disability are studying on mainstream programmes leading to a recognised qualification, up from 79% last year.

A huge range of courses are available with health care/medicine/health and safety, catering for 46,588 students, being the most popular.

Colleges remain the biggest delivery agent of Modern Apprenticeships, supporting 11,534 students, an increase of more than 500 on last year.  And a further 4,240 senior phase pupils signed up for Foundation Apprenticeships, almost 800 more than in 2021.  Overall, an incredible 77,103 students are studying as part of their occupation.

The sector has also played its part in addressing national gender imbalances with 58% of principals, 53% of the senior management team and 52% of all students being women.

So that’s Scotland’s colleges by the numbers. They’re places and people the nation can be proud of … and that’s a fact!!!


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