College sector overview report 2022 to 2023: Methodology

HM Inspectors, on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), provide independent external assurance, support and challenge to Scotland’s colleges on the quality of provision and services.

This report highlights positive practice and aspects for improvement across the college sector. The report also includes analysis of the latest available college performance data (for the academic year 2021 to 2022). Importantly, we hope that it will also inform future arrangements to support improvement in college provision.

HM Inspectors evaluated the performance of the college sector through link HM Inspector engagement, thematic external reviews and a programme of external evaluation visits. They worked collaboratively with the college sector and SFC to plan and carry out visits to all of Scotland’s colleges during the academic year 2022 to 2023. They carried out annual engagement visits (AEVs) in 22 colleges where HM Inspectors had seen satisfactory progress being made against improvement priorities and where no aspects of performance required further exploration.

They carried out progress visits (PVs) in five colleges that HM Inspectors had indicated needed further progress against improvement priorities and where aspects of performance required further exploration.

During AEVs and PVs, a team of HM Inspectors, associate assessors (AAs) and student team members (STMs) spoke to college leaders, staff, learners and other stakeholders. They evaluated the progress colleges were making towards their own improvement targets and their impact on learner recruitment, retention, attainment, and progression. They also identified examples of highly effective practice. These will be shared with the sector and key stakeholders, in partnership with the College Development Network (CDN).

Link HM Inspectors also worked closely with all colleges to build capacity and provide support and challenge. Intelligence gathered through ongoing engagement helped to inform the focus of external evaluation approaches for each college and identify common themes and aspects for improvement across the wider sector. Similarly, the findings of thematic reviews have contributed to this report.