A major factor cited for this decline is the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Figures released by the Scottish Funding Council in their 2019-20 report have found that the number of college student enrolments in Scotland fell by 26,000 compared to the previous year, with only 239,004 students enrolling in college. This is down from 264,858 in the 2018-19 cycle. This decrease is blamed on the impact of the pandemic, obstructing college enrolment processes.
The Scottish Funding Council conducts the analysis for college places in comparison with government targets. It outlines the success of the college sector based on three figures: course enrolments, student headcounts within courses, and credits and Full-Time Equivalents (FTE). By looking at these factors, the Council can track student numbers, college activity and the sector's performance in correlation with Scottish government targets.
The results of the 2019-20 report indicate an end to an upward trend of enrolments on part-time courses which began in the 2015 academic cycle. The report blames this reduced enrollment on the impact of Covid-19 which was in its early months during the reporting period. The pivot to online learning in March and April created new challenges with delivering practical and work-based learning within the college sector. As well as this, the ability for colleges to enrol new students was also more difficult in this period than previous years, causing the drop in enrolments.
The report found that enrolments on courses under ten hours in duration have decreased by 37.8% compared to the previous academic year. This is believed to be due to the pandemic reducing the capacity for colleges to provide part-time courses to students, instead, focusing on full time and Higher Education equivalent college courses. There was also an increase in the gap between male and female applicants in 2019-20, with the percentage of males enrolling standing at 47.8%, compared to the percentage of females standing at 51.7%.
However, the figures also demonstrate that although the report covered the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, the college sector still managed to exceed the government’s FTE target by 1,397, delivering 117,666 FTEs. This demonstrates that although the number of students may have dropped, the credits merited to students remained stable and up to the government’s standard.
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