Colleges of success

Raising attainment, improving retention and making Scotland’s colleges world class. 

Scotland’s colleges are highly successful, delivering the skills and opportunities for our young people and are meeting the needs of our economy, Minister for Further Education Shirley-Anne Somerville said today.  

In a major speech to a meeting of college principals and chairs, Ms Somerville urged leaders  to build on their success to date, continue to innovate and to take further education to the next level in Scotland, making it “world class”. 

Ms Somerville said:

“Scotland’s colleges have a clear, focused role in delivering a skilled workforce for their regions and have developed new and enhanced relationships with employers around curriculum planning, work experience and employability skills.

“All of Scotland’s colleges must continue to contribute – individually and collectively - to our aspirations for our young people, to grow our economy and to create a fairer Scotland.

“Bold and progressive leadership is needed not only to promote the idea that our colleges are world-class, but also to develop the concept of what that means.

“Our college sector is now better placed than ever before to build the workforce Scotland’s employers need, now and in the future. And as we move forward, our colleges must have the capacity to deliver the type of learning that society, the economy and individuals need for the future.”

The Minister went on to outline the development of a new improvement project designed to raise attainment and improve retention rates in Scotland’s colleges.

She said:

“I want more college students not just to enrol and to enter, but also to stay the course and emerge with a qualification that demonstrates that they have fulfilled their potential.

“Recent statistics show that around twenty five per cent of students who enrol on a full time FE course fail to complete it. This is a trend which has stubbornly persisted.  And it is a trend I want us to disrupt and ultimately to end.

“I recognise that good practice in addressing this already exists – particularly in the strong partnership working that goes on between colleges and schools and I also know that improvement plans are being put in place under the new quality arrangements. However, I want to accelerate progress through this new project and explore new ways to boost retention and attainment rates among FE students and particularly, those students currently most at risk of withdrawing from FE courses without achieving a qualification or moving to a positive destination.”

Turning to gender balanced boards the Minister, said:

“A key priority for this government is to create fifty-fifty gender balance in representation in public boards. Not just because equality is of and by itself a foundation stone of a fairer society, but also because research shows that involving more women in governance helps to increase productivity.”

The Minister highlighted the welcome development that fifty eight percent of college principals were women, and increase since 2015. However, although the percentage of male non-executive board members fell from sixty eight percent to sixty one percent over the same period other trends appeared to be going in the opposite direction with eighty one percent of Chair roles still filled by men.

Ms Somerville concluded that all involved had a responsibility to reverse this trend.


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