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Scottish colleges: the equality challenges

The challenges facing equality in Scotland's colleges

Challenges identified by colleges

In 2013, all colleges in Scotland published equality outcomes to meet the Scottish specific duties underpinning the Equality Act 2010. These were developed, using evidence, to address the most pressing challenges faced by colleges.

Common challenges that colleges have chosen to address through their outcomes are:

  • Achieving a culture that promotes equality, diversity and inclusion.
  • Mainstreaming and embedding equality in governance and management, organisational structure or merger processes.
  • Ensuring equality impact assessment takes places consistently and strategically.
  • Embedding equality in self evaluation, quality improvement and enhancement processes.
  • Increasing staff and student understanding and knowledge of equality and diversity.
  • Collection, understanding and use of data, particularly extending collection of Staff and student data across protected characteristics
  • Staff equal pay, training and development, staff support, engagement and satisfaction.
  • Student journey, including recruitment and admissions, inclusive learning and teaching, retention, achievement and progression
  • Accessibility and meeting needs through services, physical environments, equipment and resources

What the data tells us

Our 2015 Equality in colleges in Scotland: statistical report report will be published later in September. It will cover the 2013/14 academic year. Below are some key high-level statistics from the report.

Staff equality data from colleges in Scotland is not currently collected centrally.

Gender >
  • Since the peak of student numbers in 2007/08, the fall in numbers has been disproportionately among women. In 2013/14, female student numbers were 56.5% of what they were in 2007/08, while male student numbers were 67.3% of what they were in 2007/08.
  • While there has been a consistent majority of women studying in colleges in Scotland, the gap between male and female representation has narrowed from 12.2 percentage points in 2007/08 to 3.4 percentage points in 2013/14.
  • Within FE, 52.0% of students were female and 48.0% were male, a difference of 4.0 percentage points.
  • Within HE, 50.4% of students were female and 49.6% were male, a difference of 0.8 percentage points.
  • At FE level, the subjects with the largest gender differences were hairdressing, beauty, complementary therapies (94.9% female), nautical studies (94.1% male), construction (91.5% male) and engineering (86.5% male). All of these subjects have seen small percentage point decreases in the gender gap compared with 2012/13.
  • At HE level, 76.3% of students studying SET subjects were male. This proportion has increased by 1.5 percentage points since 2012/13.
  • The HE subjects with the largest gender differences were all SET subjects.
  • Students undertaking self study and distance learning courses (13.1% of all students) were predominantly women (61.3%).
  • At FE level, 62.6% of female students studied part-time, compared with 70.2% of male students.
  • The proportion of female HE students who successfully completed their course (75.9%) was higher than that of male HE students (70.9%), a difference of 5.0 percentage points.
  • In contrast to HE level, at FE level both completion rates and successful completion rates were higher for men than for women. 80.7% of male students successfully completed their course compared with 79.5% of female students, a difference of 1.2 percentage points.
  • Male students formed the majority in the land based region (78.0%), Glasgow (51.9%), Fife (51.3%) and Forth Valley (51.1%). In all other regions, the majority of students were women.
Disability >
  • 13.6% of students with a known disability status disclosed as disabled in 2013/14. The disability status of 8.4% of students was unknown.
  • 27.4% of disabled students had an impairment other than those listed. This is an increase of 7.8 percentage points compared with 2012/13.
  • 14.6% of FE students with a known disability status disclosed as disabled in 2013/14. The disability status of 9.8% of FE students was unknown, compared with 2.9% in 2011/12. Until 2013/14 there had been a steady increase in the proportion of FE students who disclosed as disabled. In 2013/14, the proportion of disabled FE students was 0.7 percentage points lower than in 2012/13 (15.3%).
  • There has been a steady increase in the proportion of HE students who disclosed as disabled since 2006/07. The disability status was unknown for 1.4% of HE students. This is the lowest figure since the time series began in 2006/07.
  • DSA status was unknown for more than two thirds of disabled HE students (68.2%). This proportion is higher than it was when the time series began in 2006/07 (when it was 62.1%), and 8.6 percentage points higher than in 2012/13.
  • Among those with known DSA status, the proportion of disabled HE students who received DSA decreased from 20.5% in 2012/13 to 17.2% in 2013/14.
  • Less than 10.0% of FE students studying nautical studies, languages, engineering and science disclosed as disabled (3.0%, 6.4%, 7.6% and 8.4% respectively).
  • Only 2.9% of HE students studying education and 3.4% in languages disclosed as disabled.
  • A higher proportion of disabled than non-disabled students studied full-time.
  • At FE level, the proportion of non-disabled students who completed their course was 2.6 percentage points higher than that of disabled students (89.6% and 87.0% respectively). This gap has increased since 2012/13.
  • At HE level, the proportion of non-disabled students who completed their course was 3.0 percentage points higher than that of disabled students (86.6% and 83.6% respectively). This gap has increased since 2012/13.
Race >
  • The proportion of students studying in Scotland’s colleges who were BME increased from 5.6% in 2012/13 to 6.0% in 2013/14.
  • A higher proportion of BME students studied at HE level than white students (19.9% of BME students compared with 17.5% of white students).
  • A higher proportion of BME students than white students studied at SCQF level 3 (11.1% of BME students compared with 2.9% of white students). However, a high proportion of other white students also studied at this level (6.8%).
  • Among FE students, BME students were particularly underrepresented in land based industries (0.9%) and construction (1.9%).
  • Among HE students, BME students were particularly underrepresented in education (2.2%), mass communication and documentation (2.8%) and agriculture (2.8%).
  • Among FE students, a higher proportion of BME students studied part-time than white students (69.0% and 62.0%).
  • Among FE students, BME students had higher rates of both early withdrawal (5.2% compared with 3.9%) and further withdrawal (8.3% compared with 6.8%) than white students.
  • Among HE students, white students had a higher rate of successful completion than BME students (73.6% compared with 70.4%). Students from other white backgrounds had the highest successful completion rate (78.8%).
  • The regions with the highest proportions of students who were BME were Glasgow (14.6%) and Edinburgh and Lothians (10.6%).
Age >
  • Though there was a drop in student numbers across all age groups between 2007/08 and 2013/14, this was disproportionately high among the youngest and oldest age groups.
  • Students aged under 16 made up 9.5% of all students, a decrease of 0.4 percentage points from 2012/13 levels.
  • Care was the most popular subject for FE students in all age groups except those aged under 16, for whom engineering (17.1%) and special programmes (15.5%) were more popular.
  • At HE level, SET subjects were more popular among younger students than among older students (35.2% of students aged 16–24 studied SET subjects, compared with 21.3% of students aged 40 and over).
  • Among all students, a higher proportion of students aged 16–19 studied full-time than part-time (47.4% compared with 45.5%), whereas this is reversed among all other age groups.
  • At FE level, the highest rate of early withdrawal was among students aged 20–24 (5.0% of students this age). The highest rate of further withdrawal was among students aged 16–19 (10.0%).
  • The proportion of FE students aged under 16 in SIMD Q5 who successfully completed their course decreased again from 77.3% in 2012/13 to 76.1% in 2013/14. This follows a large decrease of 5.9 percentage points from 2011/12 to 2012/13.
  • HE students aged 16–19 had a higher rate of further withdrawal (9.7%) than HE students in any other age group.
  • The region with the highest proportion of students aged 16–19 was Forth Valley (44.1%).
Multiple identities >
  • In 2013/14, the proportion of students aged under 16 who disclosed as disabled (13.4%) was 3.2 percentage points lower than in 2012/13 (16.6%).
  • The completion gap between disabled and non-disabled students was narrower among students aged 29 and under than it was among students aged 30 and over.
  • With the exception of the 40 and over age group, the proportion of students within an age group who were BME increased with age.
  • The majority of students aged 24 and under were men, whereas the majority of students aged 25 and over were women.
  • The successful completion gap between male and female students was highest among those aged 20–24: 77.6% of male students in this age group completed successfully compared with 75.8% of female students (a difference of 1.9 percentage points).
  • The proportion of white students who disclosed as disabled (14.2%) was nearly double that of BME students (7.7%), a difference of 6.5 percentage points. This gap has narrowed since 2012/13.
  • The largest completion gap between disabled (79.4%) and non-disabled (86.6%) students was among black students (7.2 percentage points).
  • A higher proportion of male students disclosed as disabled (14.5%) than female students (12.9%), a difference of 1.6 percentage points.
  • Across gender and disability, the lowest completion rates were among female disabled students (85.7%). The lowest successful completion rates were also among female disabled students (75.7%), as were the highest rates of early and further withdrawal.
  • Male students made up the majority of mixed and other students (52.3%). Female students made up the majority of all other ethnic groups.
  • Across ethnicity and gender, black male students had the lowest completion rate (85.3%) and successful completion rate (71.4%).