Scotland’s colleges have seen student numbers drop by 140,000 in the last five years, according to new figures.
There were a total of 238,805 students at colleges in 2012-13, down from 379,233 in 2007-08.
Opposition politicians at Holyrood branded the fall “a disgrace”, with student leaders also voicing concerns.
The figures were revealed in a new report from the Scottish Funding Council, which explained it expected student numbers would drop after colleges were told to prioritise courses that would improve people’s chances of finding work, and reduce the number of people on short courses and leisure classes.
Labour education spokeswoman Kezia Dugdale said that under the SNP “colleges admissions have dropped by 37%, an incredible 140,000 students It’s a disgrace and shows a complete lack of leadership and vision from the Scottish Government.”
Education Secretary Mike Russell said the Scottish Government’s commitment on the number of full-time equivalent students had been met.
In addition, 65% of full-time college students completed their course successfully last year, up from 64% in 2011-12.
Mr Russell insisted: “As well as fulfilling our commitment to 116,000 funded full-time equivalent places, the sector is delivering for individual students, even in the face of restrictions placed on the Scottish budget by Westminster.”