College sector overview report 2022 to 2023: Learner progression

Planning and updating the curriculum

All college and curriculum managers worked well with industry partners to enhance and widen progression pathways to employment. LMI was used well by curriculum teams to address workforce planning and raise learner awareness of future skills and employment opportunities. Staff worked flexibly and swiftly within curriculum teams and with educational partners to adapt provision to ease progression to the next level of study.

Almost all colleges invested in equipment and resources that ensure that teaching facilities were up to date with current and emerging industry practice. This supported priority sector areas such as engineering, software development, construction and care. These facilities and resources provided learners with valuable hands-on experience of the workplace. This was especially valuable where awarding body requirements may not have been updated to reflect current industry standards and practices.

All colleges had well-established arrangements in place with universities to offer a wide range of options for learners to progress from college to degree-level programmes, many with direct entry to second or third year. Almost all colleges offered degree programmes delivered on campus. This reduced the financial burden of travel or accommodation costs. Scottish Widening Access Programme (SWAP) arrangements between colleges and universities gave adult returners good opportunities to progress to university provision.

Most curriculum teams embedded vocational and other skills effectively into the curriculum to prepare learners to enter employment or further study. However, a number of colleges had not yet consistently embedded opportunities for learners to develop meta skills across all curriculum areas, nor were meta skills evidenced or signposted sufficiently to learners. This limited learner awareness of these skills. It also meant that they missed the opportunity to demonstrate them to prospective employers.

Learning and teaching

In almost all colleges, staff collaborated with employers, schools and universities to provide learners with opportunities to explore industry and academic pathways open to them beyond their college programme.

Almost all college curriculum teams involved learners in activities that supported them well to further develop their meta skills and build resilience in preparation for the next phase of their learning or employment.

Arrangements for supporting learners

College staff promoted progression pathways well. They worked collaboratively internally and with partners to support learners to enter a positive destination on leaving college. Most learners who completed their college programme progressed to further study or employment.

Almost all colleges worked well with external stakeholders to provide opportunities for learners to explore and work towards achieving their career aspirations. Activities included hosting career events and providing workshops on making applications for employment or further learning, including CV writing and interview techniques. In most colleges, centralised services provided learners with good access to advice and support to plan their next steps, to employment or further learning. Colleges offered timetabled guidance and support sessions to complete job or university applications for all learners. Learner feedback was positive about the help and support they received from the college to progress.

A few colleges experienced an increase in the number of learners choosing to work freelance or become self-employed. In these colleges, curriculum teams worked collaboratively with partner agencies, including Young Enterprise Scotland and The Prince’s Trust, to help learners establish their own business.

Arrangements for improving progression

The majority of colleges worked collaboratively with local schools to evaluate the quality of provision for school-based learners and plan for improvement. However, most colleges did not gather feedback from universities on the performance of learners who had progressed to degree-level study to inform actions to improve and ease learner progression.

A number of colleges did not analyse learner feedback and destination data systematically in order to enhance progression rates.