A QUARTER of students at Scottish colleges drop out of their courses, a new study has revealed.
The report by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) shows that the number of students failing to stick to courses is on the rise – up to 25.4% in 2014-15.
The dropout figures are up some 3% on the same figures for 2013-14.
The number of students attending colleges in Scotland has also dropped by 35% over the last five years – by 120,417 places.
Education officials have blamed the statistics on the effects of recent government cuts which seen colleges merging.
Vonnie Sandlan, president of the National Union of Students Scotland, said that the report “raises real areas of concern, not least an increase in the numbers of students not completing their courses, which which further highlights the need for urgent and bold action to improve the support those college receive.”
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union, said: “The EIS has repeatedly warned that cuts of college funding, coupled with a programme of restructuring and changed to government policy, have places a major squeeze on the further education sector and led to the loss of courses, student places, jobs and opportunities across Scotland.”
The recent statistics, published this week, also revealed that younger students attending college are increasing.
Learners aged between 20 and 24 increased from 15.4% to 18.9% between 2009 and 2015.
But mature students aged over 25 had dropped from 31.6% to 29.4%.
Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said she was happy to see the the number of students from the most deprived areas were on the increase.
She added: “This is an example of colleges delivering on government policy priorities such as widening access and reducing inequalities.”
Last month a report by the SFC revealed that Edinburgh College, the largest college in Scotland, faced a deficit in excess of £5 million.
The college, which enrolls around 30,000 students, claimed they had seen course completion rates dropping by 6% over a one year period alone.
The figures came following a merger in 2012 which saw Edinburgh’s Jewel and Esk, Telford and Stevenson colleges combine under the umbrella of Edinburgh College.
In the report, the SFC expressed their concerns about the future of the college saying that it was not “at the level projected for academic year 2015/16”.
It added: “While this merger has made progress in many areas, significant aspects of the college face challenges and remain under question.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “This Government has a strong track record and has invested significantly in colleges, with £530 million funding provided to the sector this year.
“Students are achieving more than before – in 2014/15 almost 11,000 more college students successfully completed full-time courses leading to recognised qualifications, than in 2008/09.
“Colleges are playing a key role in serving the most deprived communities with 16% of students coming from the 10% most deprived postcodes in 2014/15. They are also making great progress in widening access to university with the number of students moving from college to university increasing by 29% between 2011/12 and 2014/15.”