Scots colleges face cash penalties over gender imbalance


CASH-STRAPPED Scots colleges could be denied millions of pounds of funding if they fail to address gender imbalances on certain courses.

After the government cut funding to Scotland’s colleges by over 12% between 2011 and 2014, the country’s 25 colleges reported a deficit of £95.2m.

But now these colleges could be denied a portions of £1.5bn funding pot if they fail to balance the number of girls and boys on certain courses.

Figures for 2013-14 showed that 92% of college engineering students and 89% of construction students were male, whilst females made up 73% of those on care courses and 63% studying social subjects.

Now the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) – the body that distributes funding amongst the country’s higher education institutions – has said that colleges failing to balance these figures will be denied funding.

It is hoped that the change will produce more females qualified in STEM subjects
It is hoped that the change will produce more females qualified in STEM subjects


The SFC presides over £1.5bn of funding to Scotland’s colleges and universities every year – although it is not known exactly how much of this will be withheld from colleges failing to meet targets.

Earlier this month the council released a report titled “Delivering College Outcome Agreements” – setting out a series of targets which colleges will be expected to deliver in return for funding.

By the academic year of 2016/17, colleges will be expected to meet the new set of outcomes, including “addressing gender imbalances in the most imbalanced subjects”, reducing carbon emissions and “mainstreaming equality and diversity.”

Colleges across Scotland are already tailoring their curriculum to meet the demands of the new funding guidelines.

Last month Glasgow City College revealed that it would be piloting a female-only engineering course in a bid to close their own gender gap.

In previous years at the college only 6% of engineering students were female, although a new 12-strong female only class started in September.

A spokesman for the college said that the move was made to address matters of “diversity and equality.”

He added: “In the longer term, we hope it will also take us one step closer to widening access for women in engineering.”

The SFC guidance document also called on colleges to make greater efforts to work with disabled young people, care-leavers and black and minority ethnic groups.

A spokesman for the SFC said: “We want to make sure everyone had the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

He claimed that the college sector had been progressing in widening access, but there remained “some intractable areas – in particular the gender imbalance in many subjects – were we all agree that change is needed.

He went on to say that the new “outcome agreements” were “realistic and negotiated with individual regions according to local circumstances.”

But a spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) warned that pressure on education budgets had “contributed to some very difficult cuts, with specialist and part-time courses often disproportionately affected.

“Cuts to provision for students with additional support needs are a huge concern across the sector”, he added.