Fall in female students ‘a national disgrace’

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THE number of women studying in Scotland’s colleges has fallen dramatically in the past five years, new figures show.

Opposition politicians branded the 26 per cent ­reduction in the number of ­female learners since 2006-7 “a national disgrace”.

Figures show the number of women in further education has fallen from 161,559 to 118,447 in 2010-11. The number of men in college has fallen 13 per cent, from 111,352 to 96,104.

A Scottish Funding Council report said: “Short full-time study is much more common among men, being commonly associated with training for trades. Evening and weekend and distance or open learning are more popular with ­women, and more women participate in part-time day courses, ­although the number has declined over the five-year period.”

Colleges are facing a series of mergers to save money and end course duplication. While universities have seen their overall funding increased, teaching budgets for colleges have been slashed.

John Henderson, chief executive of Scotland’s Colleges, said: “These statistics indicate fewer women are undertaking part-time courses. The SFC should carefully examine the trends to ensure no particular groups are being disadvantaged.”

Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour’s youth employment spokeswoman, said the situation was a “national disgrace”.

“This is a shameful record for the SNP on participation in further education,” she said.

But a Scottish Government spokesman said: “The government is seeking to tackle inequality in gaining employment and recently hosted Scotland’s first Women’s Employment Summit. We are committed to maintaining full-time equivalent student numbers at 2010-11 levels.”