In March 2018, the Scottish Government published an evidence report ‘Learner Journey: Analysis of Scottish education and training provision for 15 to 24 year olds‘ . The report is based largely on published data up to and including 2015-16 (my previous article Destination College – first choice for many, second chance for some, but not second best!’ analysed school leaver destinations for 2016-17).

The report contains lots of interesting data but it is flawed in how it presents school leaver destinations. Before I comment further on that, some general observations about the report.

Section 3 deals with College Provision in Scotland. While the focus in this chapter is on Further Education (FE) courses, there is a short section on HN (Higher National) qualifications on page 36. It is not made clear in this chapter focusing on FE that HNs are in fact Higher Education (HE) courses.

Section 5 on Transition between School and University makes no reference to HN Certificates and Diplomas as HE qualifications. Neither does it make clear that over a third of the 37.3% (in 2015-16) who moved onto HE from school do so at college!

According to UCAS, around 25% school leavers in Scotland move onto university. Subtracting that figure from the 37.3% moving onto HE and adding the 22.4% of school leavers who moved onto FE courses means that the reality is that 25% young people go to university from school and 34.7% go to college.

This means that colleges are the TOP destination for school leavers!

Myths that half of young people go to university persist and commentators regularly report that 50% young people go to university. I have tried hard – without success – to find statistical evidence for this claim. Based on the statistics in the report published in March, the only conclusion I can draw is that the 50% figure is a myth that has been around so long it’s become part of our folklore!

Countries like Austria, Germany and Switzerland celebrate and champion their vocational education systems. Indeed, in these countries most young people are proactively encouraged to follow vocational and technical routes at college.

These countries are proud of the majority of their young people who go to technical colleges or into apprenticeships on leaving school. They are also proud of the minority of their young people who move onto university.

Can we say the same in Scotland (and the UK) when commentators perpetually inflate the number of young people moving onto university from school and underplay the larger numbers who go to college?

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