Drop in Scottish school leavers heading for university as proportion hits six-year low

Statistics show the percentage of school leavers going into jobs has increased

The proportion of school leavers going to university in Scotland has fallen to its lowest level since 2015/16, new figures have revealed.

Official statistics show 37.7 per cent of 2021/22 leavers went into higher education, down from 40.3 per cent in the previous year.

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One reason for the drop is understood to be the ending of an initiative to offer additional student places in the wake of Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) exam results fiasco.

Teenage Students In Uniform Sitting Examination In School HallTeenage Students In Uniform Sitting Examination In School Hall
Teenage Students In Uniform Sitting Examination In School Hall

The cost-of-living crisis may also be influencing the recent decline, combined with job opportunities available in a post-Brexit economy that has been hit by skills shortages in many sectors.

The percentage of school leavers going into colleges last year was 20.7 per cent, the second lowest proportion since 2009/10, although it represented an increase from 18.3 per cent of leavers in 2020/21.

However, the figures showed a rise in the percentage of leavers going into jobs to 31.8 per cent – the highest level since 2009/10 – and up from 31.5 per cent in the previous year.

Overall, 93.5 per cent of school leavers were in a “positive” follow-up destination – an increase from 93.2 per cent in 2020/21, and the highest proportion since consistent records began in 2009/10.

The gap between those from the most and least deprived areas in work, training or further study has also narrowed to a record low of seven percentage points, down from 18.7 percentage points in 2009/10.

Education secretary Jenny Gilruth said: "I am greatly encouraged to see we have a record number of young people in work, training or further study less than a year after leaving school.

"These figures are testament to the hard work of learners across the country. We know the pandemic had a significant impact on our education system, but Scotland’s teachers and support staff are clearly preparing young learners for the next stage in life very well, whether that be work or further study.

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"This Government has prioritised tackling the gap in achievement between the most and least deprived areas, so I am heartened to see this gap continuing to close.”

While the proportion of Scottish school leavers going into higher education has fallen compared to other recent years, the actual number of Scottish students entering their first year of an undergraduate degree has increased from 36,745 in 2017/18 to 39,570 in 2021/22.

Of the 6.5 per cent of 2021/22 school leavers not deemed to be in “positive” destinations, 3.4 per cent were unemployed, but seeking work, while 2.4 per cent were unemployed and not seeking, and the remaining 0.7 per cent of leavers were in an “unknown” status.

As in previous years, students who left from S6 were the most likely to be in work, training or further study, while those who left school in S4 were the least likely.

Meanwhile, the percentage of 2021/22 school leavers in a positive destination increased compared to the year before for those from both the most deprived and least deprived areas.

The deprivation gap between the two groups has narrowed from 7.5 percentage points in 2020/21 to 7.0 percentage points in 2021/22.



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