College sector overview report 2022 to 2023

This national overview report summarises the findings from HM Inspectors of Education engagement and review of Scotland’s colleges during the academic year 2022 to 2023.

We saw good work in the way that college leaders and staff have prioritised the needs of stakeholders, including learners, when planning and delivering the curriculum offer. Colleges have taken positive steps to begin to address the changing nature of the learner population and the needs of learners.

In taking account of the impact of the pandemic on learners, they have continued to work to improve learner outcomes and meet local, regional and national skills needs. Alongside this, colleges have also had to find ways to support learners to cope with the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on their ability to sustain their learning.

However, the overall picture also highlights a number of aspects of college sector performance that need to improve. There is still too much variability in outcomes for learners, both between individual colleges and across different subject areas. Further education (FE) attainment remains low overall, and this has been the trend for at least the last 10 years.

The sector is experiencing falling recruitment to full-time programmes at the same time as increasing demand for part-time provision. All colleges have experienced increased levels of need among learners and, at times, college provision has not been adapted sufficiently well to meet the needs of learners without the skills levels required to succeed, particularly in literacy and numeracy.

Some of these findings are concerning, so we have included recommendations for colleges, the Scottish Funding Council and Scottish Government to consider. We will support all stakeholders involved to both understand the challenges and support improvement.

Photo of Janie McManus

Signature for Janie McManus

Janie McManus
His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education