THE number of women entering college north of the Border has continued to fall after a change in policy by the Scottish Government.

The number of females securing a place in further education in 2011/12 was 144,577 compared to 214,089 in 2006/07 - a decline of 32%.

The trend was first highlighted by The Herald in 2012 after the SNP told colleges to focus on full-time courses for younger learners to cut youth unemployment.

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A Scottish Funding Council report at the time highlighted how the move had a greater impact on females. It said: "Evening and weekend and distance or open learning are more popular with women and more women participate in part-time day courses, although the number has declined over the five-year period."

Mary Scanlon, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, who published the figures, said: "The SNP has made great play of targeting full-time courses, but that's no use for those who can't put that kind of time commitment into college.

"This approach discriminates against those who want to change career, but who cannot afford to revert to being a full-time student.

"And as we can see from these figures, it certainly discriminates against women who want to boost their skills, but have other commitments in life such as young children."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Women account for the majority of full-time students and all students are being supported with record levels of financial support - over £102 million this academic year in bursaries, childcare and discretionary funds, including additional money for women returning to education."