Education and Skills Impact Framework (ESIF) - college provision: contextual summary report 2022

This analysis uses longitudinal education outcomes data to estimate labour market outcomes and returns to investment associated with post-school qualifications. A technical report describes the methodology and findings in detail. This summary report covers some college qualifications.

Purpose and Rationale

This publication aims to summarise and provide context to the results of the Education and Skills Impact Framework (ESIF), designed to provide an estimate of the impact of education and skills in Scotland.

Specialist economic and policy consultants London Economics were commissioned by the Scottish Government’s Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board to analyse the Return on Investment (ROI) associated with post-16 education and training in Scotland. Using the Scottish Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data, they estimated the labour market outcomes associated with higher education (HE) qualifications, further education (FE) qualifications, and Modern Apprenticeships (MAs). Combining this labour market analysis with information on the associated costs to the individual, the Exchequer, and the employer (for MAs only), they estimated the Return on Investment to each qualification. The methodological approach was independently reviewed by independent, academic experts at the outset and during the project.

The full technical report produced by London Economics describes the methodology and findings in detail. To complement this, three summary contextual reports have been produced, covering Modern Apprenticeships, College and University qualifications. This report focuses on economic outcomes for individuals whose highest qualification was earned at college.


The Education and Skills Impact Framework (ESIF) was conceived by the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board in 2019 to develop a robust evidence base that could help inform investment in post-school education and skills to enable a skills system that maximises both the return to public investment and the benefits to individual learners and employers.

The key driver behind this was the lack of comprehensive, consistent evidence on impact and ROI in the post-compulsory education and skills system in Scotland, the response to which was highlighted in two key documents:

Scottish Government Enterprise and Skills Review (2017)

“This will be achieved through better collaboration on intelligence across the enterprise and skills agencies, helping to identify the most effective interventions to support productivity improvements – including improving the evidence base on return on investment.”

Scottish Government 15-24 Learner Journey Review (2018), where the Scottish Government committed to improving the measurement of the return from investment in education and training.

“Taking all this work forward will require strong joint leadership and the right evidence base so that we act on evidence of outcomes and return on investment to ensure we continue to invest in the right qualifications and right types of learning.”

The ESIF programme of work was agreed by CEOs of Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) in January 2019 and noted that:

“Producing impact measures is not a simple task. But it is important ... Generating up-to-date impact estimates on this investment would:

  • ensure that public sector investment in post-school education and skills investment in Scotland is informed by robust evidence of impact

To facilitate this, two complementary workstreams were developed within the ESIF programme: Economic Impact, and Social and Wellbeing Impact. This report focuses on the findings from the Economic Impact workstream.

  • inform employer investment and recruitment behaviour”
  • support individuals to make informed career choices

About College Qualifications

The Education and Skills Impact Framework (ESIF) considers 3 pathways: college, university and Modern Apprenticeships. As stated earlier, this report focuses on individuals who earn their highest qualification at college. Key points of context to note regarding qualifications at college are below.

  • Learning descriptor & qualification range: Colleges provide a wide and varied range of qualifications both on a full time and part time basis. Qualification frameworks judged to be vocational in nature were selected for the analysis including:
  • These qualifications are aggregated by SCQF level. In addition, HNC, HND and other sub-first-degree higher education provision at college and university are grouped into the ‘other undergraduate’ category.
Table 1 - Enrolments to other undergraduate and college courses, academic year 2020-21
Qualification Group Enrolments
Other undergraduate 54,515
SCQF Level 8 3,670
SCQF Level 7 12,970
SCQF Level 6 55,455
SCQF Level 5 48,415
SCQF Level 4 24,325
Total 199,345
  • Public Funding: Due to the nature of SFC funding for the college sector it is not possible to directly attribute funding to each qualification group. Funding for qualifications has been estimated by taking a proportion of student support, capital, and teaching funding by full time equivalents (Table 2). In 2018-19 the highest funded qualification group was other undergraduate which received an estimated £174m of capital and teaching funding. The level of funding varied across SCQF groups, with less than £1m for SCQF level 8 and £99m for SCQF level 5.
Table 2 - Estimated funding of other undergraduate and SCQF vocational courses, academic year 2018-19
Qualification Group Estimated Funding
Other undergraduate £174m
SCQF Level 8 £1m
SCQF Level 7 £9m
SCQF Level 6 £87m
SCQF Level 5 £99m
SCQF Level 4 £30m
Total £400m



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