Concerns have been raised that a students are being put off studying in the isles because of an ongoing shortage in affordable accommodation.
The Shetland College board – which met for, potentially, the penultimate time following the UHI merger – heard the shortfall in available flats was a at “critical point”.
The question was raised by board chairman Peter Campbell, who raised concerns that students may be choosing not to study in the isles because of the “challenges” in finding somewhere to stay.
“This has been an ongoing problem, and I was wondering will this be seen by the board of management as being something that is a priority area to be addressed?” he asked.
Prof Lewis said it was “disappointingly difficult” to get reasonably-priced accommodation.
“And that has impacted on our recruitment,” she said.
But she added efforts were being made to seek funding to address the problem through a “campus redevelopment plan”.
She added student residences had been identified as one of the priorities for the Knab redevelopment.
“That would be really, really important to us,” she said.
“It is a high priority for us, as I’m sure you will appreciate not one that can be turned around overnight.”
Figures running up to 28th July show there were 38 further education full time applicants at the Lerwick campus, compared with 57 in 2019.
Only 75 part time further education applicants were accepted, down from 102 in 2020.
The number of higher education full time applicants for Lerwick fell from 92 to 66 in the space of one year.
Ms Lewis said the figures will have changed since 28th July, but admitted student numbers were down this year.
“One trend we have seen is students making quite late decisions, obviously with so much uncertainty from the pandemic,” she said.
“It’s been a very difficult and moving picture.
“We’re very keen to welcome any students that are still considering coming to college.”