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The Higher Education System in Scotland

Learn about the higher education system in Scotland. Find out how it compares to the rest of the UK, the different kinds of programs and qualifications offered and how long they take to complete.

Oct 3, 2020
 Scottish Higher Education

The Scottish education system is very different from the rest of the United Kingdom. Scotland requires all people to attend compulsory schooling up to the age of 16.

Most young people in Scotland move into higher education at the age of 17 (rather than 18). This may be because first degree students from Scotland (or the rest of the EU) studying in Scotland do not pay any direct course fees for their first undergraduate degree.

In Scotland, 15 universities and three other higher education institutions are charged with delivering higher education across a broad range of vocational and academic qualifications, including certificates, higher national certificates, diplomas, higher national diplomas as well as a variety of foundation, undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate degrees.

Scotland is also home to four “ancient universities” whose origins can be traced back earlier than the 1600s. They are St. Andrews University - founded in 1413 - together with Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh universities. 

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Generally, the following timeframes apply to higher education studies in Scotland:

          National Certificates (NC)1 year          
Higher National Certificates (HNC)NC + 1 year
Diplomas2 years
Higher National DiplomasHNC + 1 year
Foundation Degreesn/a
Bachelor’s Degrees4 years
Master’s DegreesBachelor’s degree + 12 months
PhDsMaster’s degree + 3-4 years

Quality standards for Scottish universities are among the best in the world and credentials from Scottish institutions are well respected internationally. So no matter your level or length of study - studying in Scottish is a surefire way to make a positive step towards your prospective career in any field.

Eager to create your own company or be a leader in the top companies in the world? Scotland has some of Europe's best business schools and an MBA in the UK will offer you top quality education that will take your skills to the next level!

Learn more about studying in Scotland:

Scottish Language & Culture

Scotland is a country with a rich heritage. Find out more about what the country offers in terms of language, culture, and more! 

Tuition Fees In Scotland

Tuition fees for higher education programs in Scotland can vary. Many international and domestic students pay different tuition fees, depending on where they are from. In this section you'll find all the information on how this works in Scotland.

Living Costs In Scotland

No matter where you study abroad, it’s important to create a budget in advance so that you’re prepared. Therefore, we’ve detailed average living and housing costs so that you can get a better idea of what you would be paying as a student in Scotland.

Entry Requirements for UK Universities

Learn more about the United Kingdom's national application portal and how it applies in Scotland. This section covers what you'll need to do when applying as an undergraduate and postgraduate.


Don't let international student tuition fees stop you from studying abroad in Scotland. Find out more about some of the scholarships available to international students here! 

Student Visas for the UK

Do you need a visa to enter Scotland to study? Learn more about the student visa process, and what you need to enter the country, depending on your citizenship. Don't worry! We've gathered the information you'll need to make it happen.

Programs in Scotland

Ready to browse higher education courses in Scotland? Use our search engine to find and compare top programs in Scotland today!

Photo of University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK by Euan Cameron on Unsplash.

Keystone Team


The Keystone Team is comprised of experienced educators and advisors dedicated to providing valuable resources and advice to students all over the world.