Leader comment: College initiatives could be huge boost

There has for along time been a number of gender disparities in education, but that does not mean we should accept it as an inevitable presence, or that we should not challenge each and every one.

The broad picture is that there has been a big overall drop of all college enrolments.

So now we learn that the number of enrolments by women in Scotland’s colleges has almost halved since the SNP came to power from 274,618 in 2007-8 to 142,738 in 2015-16, down 48 per cent. It should be noted that male enrolments in the same period were also down, by 36 per cent.

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Now college courses, as opposed to degrees at universities, have always been seen as more vocational, and in some cases areas traditionally more likely to attract women might have become more academic and switched more to degree-level, like nursing, but that will not explain all of the shift. And it is true that more and more people are going to university, and the greatest percentage of them are women.

In 2016 there were around 46,000 people who got a university place, and using previous figures the assumption would be that was around 27,000 women. So that cannot make up for the women no longer enrolling to go to college. But the big picture here is that there has been a big overall drop of all college enrolments.

That surely just reinforces how good an idea Newlands Junior College in Glasgow is. The college was set up by businessman Jim McColl to give vocational training to 14 to 16-year-olds having difficulty at school. This accurately targets people with the greatest need for intervention and gives, real, practical help. The government should certainly do what it can to see this innovative project rolled out.