Here’s Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale today:
Except that’s not quite EVERYTHING we need to know, is it, Kezia?
As you can see from the top two lines in the above graph, the total number of people in colleges has indeed gone down significantly. But does that mean that there’s a third less teaching and learning going on? To find out, we probably need to hear what the Scottish Funding Council, which produced the graph, has to say about it.
“A substantial fall in student numbers was expected as SFC moved away from funding very short programmes of study (under 10 hours) and leisure programmes in favour of more substantial courses designed to improve the student’s employment prospects.
As SFC pays colleges to deliver a specified number of learning hours a move towards more substantial programmes of study will mean that colleges deliver their learning hour targets whilst recruiting fewer students.
(Pages 5 and 6, our emphasis.)
For that reason, the SFC measures college activity not by headcounts but in things called WSUMs, or Weighted Standard Units of Measurement, which give a much more accurate picture of how much studying is being done overall. And how do those figures look, you might be wondering? Luckily, we can show you.
As you can see, there’s still been a fall in the total amount of teaching and learning in Scotland’s further-education colleges by the WSUM measure since the SNP took power. To be precise, it’s a cumulative fall of just over 3% across seven years (which for unalert readers is under 0.43% a year), a period spanning a massive economic crash which has seen a stranglehold put on Scotland’s budget by Westminster.
Kezia Dugdale knows only too well that retaining 97% of college output, under those extreme financial pressures, while refocusing the college sector on more practical and useful employment-targetted courses, keeping tuition free across the board and ending Labour’s £2,000 graduate endowment charge for good measure, is in fact something approaching a miraculous achievement by the Scottish Government.
But that’s no good to Ms Dugdale, so she spouts massively misleading figures instead in order to give a completely distorted impression without actually lying.
Fine. That’s politics. We’re just here to fill in the gaps so Scots get the full picture, and so they can know who’s playing straight with them.