More Scots students going to university, but college numbers fall

A record number of students went into higher education in Scotland last year, new figures reveal.
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Glasgow University

Data from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) shows there were 296,695 higher education students in Scottish universities and colleges in 2017-18, up by 4,075 on the previous year.

The 1.4 per cent increase was largely due to a rise in students going to Scottish universities, which reached a record high of 104,520 students.

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However, the number of new entrants to colleges saw a reduction of 1,195 (-3.1 per cent) since 2016-17, accounting for 26.3 per cent of all higher education starters in Scotland.

The figures also show a record 37,410 Scottish-domiciled students entering the system last year at first-degree level.

The report, looking at the provision of higher education and student attainment over a ten-year period, found the number of students gaining a qualification reached an all-time high.

Of the 104,160 students leaving university or college with a higher education qualification, almost 67 per cent achieved graduate-level qualifications.

Karen Watt, chief executive of the SFC, said: “The good news from these figures is that more students living in Scotland are benefitting from higher education courses than ever before.

“For students graduating from our world-leading universities and colleges this means better life chances and career prospects.”

However Scottish Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray, MSP, said the Scottish Government must ensure students had enough to live on and also highlighted the fall in numbers of students going to colleges.

“These increasing numbers of students deserve a minimum student income from the government so they can afford to live and study. Labour forced the government to accept that recommendation from the student support review and ministers should outline when students can expect to receive it.

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“The SNP government must also be careful about patting itself on the back for increasing university admissions when college admissions are going in the opposite direction.

“Colleges are key to jobs and growth, not to mention their important role of widening access to opportunities for disadvantaged young people.

“Fewer staff and more of them on part time contracts is part of the legacy of SNP mismanagement of our colleges.”

Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead, MSP, said: “From UCAS data, we know that the number of Scots winning a place at university is at a record high, as is those winning a place at university from the most deprived areas, testament to our commitment to maintain free education and widen access to university.”