Monday, September 26, 2011

FEWeek, college recruitment and the number of 16 year olds: is demography the answer?

Figures compiled by the Office for National Statistics in a UK National Population Projection show the number of 16 to 18-year-olds could fall by more than 90,000 from 2011 to 2015 – from 2,279,948 to 2,186,192.

Experts believe this could have an impact on recruitment figures for further education (FE) and sixth form colleges.

The article shows how future demography will affect colleges each year up to 2015. However, the immediate issue is how this is affecting colleges now.

The Office of National Statistics released data for England in 2009 show that there has been a decline in the numbers of 16-18 year olds (xls file). This year’s numbers of 16 year olds are 2.1% lower than last year. This figure is less than that found by FE Week’s survey of college enrolments suggesting that other factors have been at work.

This is not a new development as shown by the graph above showing the number of 16 year olds declining in recent years. In 2009 there was a 3.3% decline and last year a 1.5% fall. However, over the last decade there has been a rise in participation offsetting this.

FEWeek is right to point to demography. But the enrolment challenge must be seen in the broader context including EMA and other factors.

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