Studying in Scotland
Higher education in Scotland has a long and proud history of teaching and research to match the best in Europe – and the world.
- Its four ancient universities – St Andrews (founded 1413), Glasgow (1451), Aberdeen (originally founded 1495) and Edinburgh (1583) – have, since the 1960s, been joined by a variety of other higher education institutions to create a system that is distinct from the rest of the United Kingdom.
Degree awarding institutions in Scotland
Click on the links to see individual profiles;
or see colleges in Scotland.
There are now 15 universities in Scotland, while three other institutions of higher education have the authority to award academic degrees.
- In common with the schools, higher education in Scotland is controlled by the Scottish Government under the terms of the Scotland Act 1998.
- There are no recognised private universities – all are public and funded by the Scottish Government (through its Scottish Funding Council) but research funding is allocated by the UK government through the national research councils.
Financial support for Scottish-domiciled students is provided by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (separate from the Student Loans Company which covers the rest of the UK but is confusingly based in Glasgow).
- Students ordinarily resident in Scotland or the European Union do not pay tuition fees for their first undergraduate degree, but students from the rest of the United Kingdom do pay. Read about fees and funding in Scotland; find fees information for individual universities within their profiles.
- All students are required to pay tuition fees for postgraduate education (e.g. MSc, PhD), except in certain priority areas funded by the Scottish Government, or if another source of funding can be found (e.g. research council studentship for a PhD).
Undergraduate degree courses in Scotland are typically four years, a year longer than is the norm in the rest of the UK. This reflects the school examinations in Scotland, where the Highers represent the pinnacle of a more general education compared with the tendency to specialise in the rest of the UK.
- It is often possible for students with qualifications such as English A levels to join the courses at the second year.
Uniquely, the four ancient universities award a Master of Arts as the first degree in humanities.
- The ancient universities (and the University of Dundee) also stand out with the election of their rectors as head of the university court by students (and staff at Edinburgh).
- Rectorial elections, which take place every three years, can be high-profile events. In 2014 Glasgow students elected National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, currently in exile in Russia, as their rector