Colleges in Scotland are still a major provider of adult learning but increasingly they are focused on full-time higher education for young people. The latest Baseline Report on Scottish colleges confirms this continuing trend north of the border.
Over the last year, there were over 2,200 fewer part-time learners in Scottish colleges. The largest decline came in part-time further education, which seemed last year to have plateaued at around 202,000 learners. As in previous years, the fall represents a particularly heavy loss for adult learners in general and women in particular.
This time last year, I posted an analysis of the decline in part-time higher education in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. At least in Scotland, part-time higher education appears to have held its own last year, both in colleges and in universities. But the decline in part-time further education continues.
What we are seeing amounts to a reshaping of the college landscape in Scotland. A majority of their full-time students are young people pursuing higher education programes, which broadly represents the political priority of the Scottish Government. Currently, there is no evidence that voters object to this process, so it is likely to continue.