Staying The Course: Support and Retention in Further Education

In June 2017, the launch of a new national improvement programme to raise attainment and improve retention in Scotland’s colleges was announced by the Minister for Further Education, Shirley-Anne Somerville. Colleges have a crucial position within the government’s vision for an increasingly skilled population capable of meeting the needs of the economy now and in the future and this event will look at how the sector can maximise its ability to attract and retain students through to achieving a qualification.

This briefing will examine the priorities and challenges for ensuring greater student attendance and attainment within the FE sector, as well as how we can meet these head-on.

Sessions will also explore key reasons for students leaving without a qualification or dropping out altogether and discuss how these can be better met and mitigated – from support for those with caring responsibilities to greater clarity around funding entitlements.

Key issues to be addressed

  • The place of colleges in the attainment landscape
  • Identifying and supporting students most vulnerable to under-achieving or dropping out
  • Ensuring greater clarity and consistency around student funding
  • Keeping courses engaging and relevant for pupils and the local economy alike


09:15 Registration and Refreshments

09:55 Welcome and Introduction by the Chair

Liz Leonard, Journalist and Broadcaster

Session 1: Context and Overview

  • The national improvement programme to raise attainment and improve retention in Scotland’s colleges
  • Financial and social barriers stopping students fulfilling their potential
  • The significance of falling student numbers for FE

10:00 The Perspective of the College Sector

Vonnie Sandlan, Senior Policy Officer for Colleges Scotland, will discuss the role of colleges in widening access to education, and what actions need to be considered to ensure that everyone who wants to access education, or develop their skills, is empowered and supported to do so.

Vonnie Sandlan, Senior Policy Officer, Colleges Scotland

10:40 Questions and discussion

11:00 Refreshments and Networking

Session 2: Supporting The Most Vulnerable

  • Identifying causes of academic struggle - from caring responsibilities and bullying, to issues experienced by those from a minority ethnic background.
  • Student support and the benefits system
  • How can we balance the need for work with the need to study?
  • Ensuring all fulfil their potential and leave qualified

11:30 Student Retention

A look at the work ECSA has under taken in working with students and the college at both local and national issues effecting students & solutions to these problems. 

Neal Black, Student President, Edinburgh College Student Association

11:50 Accessing and Thriving in FE: Disabled people, carers and others who stand to gain

Emma Whitelock, Chief Executive Officer, Lead Scotland

12:10 From Results To the First Year of University

Deborah Streatfield, Founder, MyBigCareer

12:30 Questions and discussion

12:50 Lunch and Networking

Session 3: Removing Key Challenges

  • Ensuring greater inclusion and diversity
  • Engaging with the wider educational community to ensure quality and value-led education
  • Concerns over funding: 100% attendance for bursary leading to dropouts – how can we ensure we aren’t letting down the most in need?
  • students facing issues with the complexity, accessibility and availability of funding
  • Advising on entitlements and debt perception: from debt advice to the debt-averse

13:30 Fairer Funding: Supporting students to access, remain, and succeed in education

Luke Humberstone, President, NUS Scotland

14:00 The Student Funding Perspective

Sarah Kirkpatrick, Senior Policy Officer (Student Support Policy Lead), Scottish Funding Council

14.30 Questions and Discussion

15:00 Close of Event

*Agenda subject to change


The Scottish Arbitration Centre, 125 Princes Street, Edinburgh | Map


Delegate rates (excluding VAT)

  • Discounted rate: 1 place £145 + VAT (Voluntary / charitable organisations with an annual income of less than £1m)
  • Reduced rate: 1 place £245 + VAT | 2+ places £195 + VAT (Central government departments and agencies, local authorities, universities, colleges, NHS, police, professional associations and voluntary / charitable organisations with an annual income over £1m)
  • Full rate: 1 place £295 + VAT | 2+ places £245 + VAT (Commercial organisations e.g. plc, Ltd, LLP)

For more information please email or phone 0131 285 1635

14 November 2017



Share this page