Gillian Raab and Kirsteen Davidson of Napier University's applied statistics group were commissioned by the Scottish Office to investigate the distribution of further education courses, writes Olga Wojtas.
They found the 46 colleges were "geographically excellently placed" to offer access to students from disadvantaged areas. Less than 1 per cent of the population in the most deprived areas live beyond 30 minutes' travelling time from a college. Moderately deprived areas were also more likely to be close to colleges.
Their study found that almost half of all Scottish students studied at their nearest college, although students on full-time and advanced courses travelled the furthest. Part-time students on advanced courses were most likely to come from affluent areas, and the Napier team suggested monitoring the chances for students from deprived areas to progress to higher levels.
Distance learning is much greater in areas further than 30 minutes' journey away from colleges, but the report says barriers to study may include shift patterns and caring responsibilities as well as travel time. There may be a need for west of Scotland colleges to develop more distance learning options, it says, since participation is particularly low in Glasgow.Students may be reluctant to sign up for courses in the east of Scotland because some aspects, such as weekend schools or seminars, will be based locally.