Over the past few months, The Herald has published a number of ground-breaking special reports that have sparked important debates and built on our reputation for expert, in-depth, thought-provoking journalism.

Now, we’re investigating a sector that is absolutely crucial to Scotland’s present and future prosperity, but which rarely if ever receives the attention it deserves.

It’s time to ask questions about the state of Scotland’s colleges.

How do they work? Who do they serve? Why do they matter? And how do we help them to help as many people as possible?

Find the answers to these questions and more by following along with the series here.

Day Six

How The Herald has shone a light on the state of Scotland's colleges
Education writers James McEnaney and Garrett Stell review our special series on the colleges and analyse the major challenges threatening the future of the sector.

From Glasgow gang culture to graduation - how 'Access' courses help dreams come true
As part of our special series on The State of Scotland's Colleges, education writer James McEnaney speaks to three people whose lives were changed by a little-known route to university on offer in colleges across the country.

How ESOL classes and a major support project changed lives in Glasgow
Arriving in a new country as a refugee or asylum seeker is a daunting experience, but ESOL classes and person-centred student support can make a huge difference.

Day Five

7 things we learned about the state of Scotland's colleges
As our special series on The State of Scotland's Colleges draws to a close, education writers James McEnaney and Garrett Stell reflect on the main lessons they have learned about the sector.

The short college courses helping students at new strings to their bow
James McEnaney visits Glasgow Clyde College's Anniesland campus to see what short, non-certificated courses can offer students, whether they want to move on to full-time learning or not.

'Industrial dispute is emotive and principled. It requires sacrifice.'
As The Herald's series into The State of Scotland's Colleges draws to a close, its impact has been noted across the sector. For students it has offered a platform to show their achievements, highlighted the demands on the sector and for some simply given them a voice. Here one lecturer, who wished to remain anonymous, tells James McEnaney what this week has meant.

Andrea Bradley: Our colleges must be saved before it's too late
The leader of the EIS teaching union argues that colleges are far too important to be allowed to fail.

Day Four

Skills shortages could put net zero at risk, but colleges have an answer

Scotland needs to revolutionise the labour force to meet its ambitious net zero target, according to industry trainers. Industry leaders and politicians are increasingly pinning their hopes on the college sector, reports Garrett Stell.

'My school put me off college but it was the best move for my future'

Scotland is aiming to reach net zero by 2045, and to do so will require a highly-skilled workforce able to install, maintain and develop the latest green technologies. Education writer James McEnaney speaks to one apprentice training to be part of the transition to a green economy.

'I found colleges very much alive, energised and delivering remarkable things'

James Withers, author of the Independent Review of Scotland’s Skills System, comments on his time reviewing the education and skills system and how he found Scotland's colleges sector to be important and resilient and staffed by people who care. 

Day Three

"UHI not going anywhere" despite sector funding crisis: Vice Chancellor insists

The top executive at the University of the Highlands and Islands insists that tighter purse strings won’t mean a compromise on the partnership’s founding principles, Garrett Stell reports.

Why UHI? How 12 colleges form the core of Scotland's most unique university​

In the earliest days of the University of the Highlands and Islands, staff sending equipment back and forth from the mainland colleges to Skye would save money on the bridge toll by parking and carrying their cargo across. Things have changed.

How one student's choice to study from home is paying dividends for her island

Chloe Steele became the first UHI student to complete an applied music programme while studying from home on South Uist. Now she's using what she's gained from the programme to give back to her home.

Colleges stay alive by staying relevant: Here's how one does it

Scotland’s colleges are, in many ways, the backbone of the modern workforce, but that workforce changes rapidly, and colleges need to keep up at every turn. This is how they do it.


How Scotland's only Gaelic college is revitalising the language and communities

The inspiring story of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Scotland’s only Gaelic-medium further and higher education institution, and the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture.

Can Scotland's youngest college offer a roadmap to sustainability?

Day Two

Timeline: How ten years of disputes have shaped the college sector

Since 2015, there has only been one year without an active labour dispute in the college sector. How has the past decade of disputes shaped the sector today?

Thousands of jobs are at risk as disputes and funding cuts rock the college sector

Almost a quarter of college workforce is at risk as funding cuts continue to rock the sector, Garrett Stell exclusively reveals.

Pay attention to striking lecturers – but don't forget the support staff

A decade of dispute has caused chaos in Scotland colleges, but it's not just lecturers taking action – support staff are fighting their own battles, writes James McEnaney.

Can reforms to national bargaining end a decade of dispute?

Recommendations for reforming college national bargaining propose repairing the “debilitatingly low level of trust”, but reforms are at risk, reports Garrett Stell.

The familiar faces who have college to thank for their glittering careers

Recognised as successful Scots, they share a common background: they kickstarted their careers at college. In some cases, success came despite leaving school with few or no Highers. These are the stars that thrived from their college experience.

James McEnaney: Why colleges matter to me

Education writer, and former college lecturer, James McEnaney explains why the further education system matters so much to him.

Minister admits college funding gap but says closing it means cuts to schools

The Scottish Government’s Minister for Higher and Further Education has claimed that closing the funding gap in Scotland’s colleges would mean taking money away from schools or hospitals, Andrew Learmonth reports.

Day One

'Chronic underfunding' – Colleges face budget gap of nearly half a billion pounds

James McEnaney exclusively reveals the details of Scotland’s colleges facing a combined funding shortfall of nearly half a billion pounds over three years. This has led to accusations of 'chronic underfunding', a consistent problem cited in the sector.

Deep Dive: Exploring the key stats for Scotland's college sector

Education writer James McEnaney compiles and analyses data from across the sector, exploring changing funding levels for colleges and students and the way in which further education institutions serve specific groups of learners.

Explained: How do Scotland's colleges really work?

Despite its importance to the country as a whole, and to huge numbers of people in all corners of Scotland, the further education sector is not well-understood. James McEnaney breaks down how the college sector operates.

There are 52 billion reasons why Scotland's colleges matter

There are many reasons why Scotland's colleges matter, but financial pressures risk drowning their economic impact. A recent study from the University of Strathclyde Fraser of Allander Institute found that Scotland’s college graduates will be worth £52 billion over their working lives. Education writer Garrett Stell reports.

'I left school with nothing but college has changed my life'

Education writer James McEnaney speaks to Rachel McCaw, a fourth-year university student for whom college courses have been a ‘crucial element’ in her story of success.

Insight: The gender divides in Scotland's colleges

When we look at the current situation for staff and students, the role of gender is a major and indisputable part of the story. James McEnaney explains why.

College entry levels for all qualifications: 2013-14 to 2023-24

The Herald has compiled data on the entry levels (the number of individuals beginning the course each year) for a wide range of qualifications. Some of the information was already publicly available, but some of the data had to be sourced directly from the Scottish Qualifications Authority.