Choosing Highers

By Lesley Grayburn, Head of Careers & Employability Services, University of Stirling

aim high Biletskiy_Evgeniy
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Highers are required for entry to
university for Scottish students

What are Highers and what Highers do I need to get into university?

Scottish students normally study towards four or five Highers in the fifth year of secondary school (S5).

  • The qualifications consist of a mix of work set and marked by teachers and an external examination.
  • Highers are aimed particularly at pupils who have achieved passes in the National 5 qualifications, and are normally needed for entry into university.
  • Depending on the results at the end of S5 pupils can take additional Highers in the sixth year (S6).

What Highers do I need to get into university?

  • There is some variety between programmes, but it is likely you will need a minimum of four Highers, ideally taken in one sitting.
  • If this isn’t achieved what you take in S6 can be taken into consideration, but the overall requirements are likely to increase.
  • For more competitive programmes, you are likely to need to successfully achieve five Highers from S5, and then additional qualifications from the S6 year.   

Achieving all the required Highers and grades by the end of S5 may result in an unconditional offer of a university place when you apply in S6, so making the right choices and working hard may well pay off.

  • S6 can then be used to take recommended or preferred subjects to Advanced Higher, or pick up other subjects at Higher to add additional breadth to what you have to offer.
  • It is also an opportunity to develop and attain relevant skills and experience through involvement in volunteering, and building up some work experience.