THE Scottish Government has come under fire over a fall in the number of women studying at Scotland's colleges.

Labour and the Tories both pressed the SNP administration on the issue, saying there were now some 80,000 fewer female college students than when the Nationalists came to power.

Youth employment minister Angela Constance stressed that the majority of college students were women.

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But Labour leader Johann Lamont used a debate on women in Scotland to highlight the issue, telling her: "When you make a decision to invest in full-time college places you have to understand the consequences being borne by women who need part-time places because of their caring responsibilities."

Fellow Labour MSP Jenny Marra joined in the attack, saying there were now 80,000 less women in our colleges than 2007, as she urged Ms Constance to review that to see if "there is anything she can do about getting more women back into college".

Tory Mary Scanlon was also critical of the SNP's record, telling MSPs: "In the academic year 2005-06 there were 257,000 female enrolments at college. Seven years later the figure stands at 155,000 - that's a reduction of 39.5% in the number of courses undertaken by women."

Ms Scanlon said while this had affected women of all ages, those between 25 and 59 had been hit "particularly hard" with 50,000 fewer female adult learners in colleges.

But Ms Constance told them: "It is important to remember women are not in the minority in our college sector, the majority of college students are women."

While she accepted some women may wish to study part-time, the minister said there was a need for more women to be on full-time courses that would help them get into work.