Scotland's colleges have opened the doors to higher education still wider by recruiting more students from the poorest neighbourhoods, according to the latest performance indicators.
The Scottish Further Education Funding Council indicators show that 29 per cent of colleges' higher education students came from the most deprived postcode areas in 2002-03, compared with 28 per cent the previous year.
Overall, .9 per cent of all college students in 2002-03 came from the most deprived postcodes, where a quarter of Scotland's population lives.
This is up from 26.8 per cent in 2001-02, the first year for which performance indicators were published.
Colleges are also supporting lifelong learning. They provide 38 per cent of courses taken by students aged over 25.
Students are happier with their experience at college, according to a student satisfaction survey commissioned as part of the performance indicators report.
In 2001, 90 per cent of students were satisfied with the quality of the learning experience while 6 per cent were dissatisfied. By 2003, 94 per cent said they were satisfied, while the number of dissatisfied students had dropped to 3 per cent.
In 2001, 89 per cent of students were satisfied with their colleges as a whole, while 4 per cent were dissatisfied. Last year, 93 per cent were satisfied and 2 per cent dissatisfied.
When asked about specific aspects of college, teaching time won the biggest thumbs up with 90 per cent satisfied with the number of contact hours they had. The lowest level of satisfaction, 64 per cent, was with advice on careers and job vacancies.
David Wann, the SFEFC's deputy chief executive, said: "For the first time, we are able to start to compare performance year on year, and I am pleased to see the further education college sector continues to perform well.
"But we must never be complacent and that's part of the purpose of the performance indicators - (to) help colleges identify scope for improvement and achieve better value for money."
Student and Staff Performance Indicators for Further Education Colleges in Scotland 2002-03 is available from www.sfefc.ac.uk