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Study in Scotland

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The Glenfinnan Viaduct has supported a train line since 1901 and featured in the film franchise Harry Potter

Once an independent sovereign state, Scotland has a long and intriguing history. It shares its southern border with England, but other than that is surrounded by the sea. Higher education has been provided in Scotland since the 15th Century, with some of the oldest universities in the world found in Scotland. Scotland is renowned for having high levels of international students and world class universities, making it a perfect place to do a degree!

Why Study in Scotland?

In the top 6 of the world’s oldest universities, Scotland holds 4 places. Behind only Oxford and Cambridge, St. Andrews University comes in at number 3, and was founded in 1413. In the top 500 QS World University rankings there are 8 Scottish universities, with the University of Edinburgh placing 15th.

Institutions in Scotland comply to a traditional three-tier higher education system, offering three types of degree, alongside other qualifications. These degree levels are bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate. Scottish higher education institutions offer courses in a wide variety of subjects, but some have a particular strength in Science. If you were to study a physics course at the University of Edinburgh for example, you may be taught by Professor Peter Higgs. Professor Higgs first predicted the existence of the Higgs-Boson particle, and is a Nobel Prize winner because of his work.

A lot of Scottish universities have high levels of non-Scottish students, on average 21% of the student body. 11% of these are from other parts of the EU, and the remaining 10% are international students. This is due to the welcoming attitude institutions in Scotland have adopted.

About Scotland

Scotland is one of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom, and covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain. As well as the mainland, more than 790 islands make up Scotland, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides. Scotland has only one land border, shared with England, but is also a short distance from Northern Ireland.

Independent until 1707, Scotland joined a political union with the Kingdom of England to create the Kingdom of Great Britain. Whilst Scotland is ruled by the same monarchy as the rest of the United Kingdom, and is mostly governed by the same parliament, there are some distinct differences. An obvious continuation of Scottish culture and national identity is clear, with the country having a unique legal, religious and education system.

The climate in Scotland is variable across the country. In the Highlands and on the northern islands, the climate can be compared to that of Scandinavian countries. The rest of the country is relatively mild, as it is regulated by the Gulf Stream. Outside of the big cities, Scotland is rural and sparsely populated. This makes it the perfect place for anyone who likes to explore the outdoors.

Tourism is a big part of the Scottish economy, as the country is home to many tourist attractions. These include the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, Loch Ness (and maybe the Loch Ness monster…) and Edinburgh Castle. Alongside this, Scotland exports over 1 billion bottles of Whisky a year, and is the European Union’s largest petroleum producer.

If you would like more information regarding studying in the United Kingdom in general, see our Study in the UK directory.

The Costs of Living and Studying

Scotland uses the Pound Sterling (£) as its currency.

If you are from Scotland or an EU country, you will not have to pay any tuition fee if it is your first degree. Students from Scotland or the EU are eligible to have their degrees paid for by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS). If you wish to do a postgraduate degree at a Scottish university, you will need to pay a tuition fee at the ‘home’ rate. This is set by each institution, so contact them for fee information.

If you are from England, Wales or Northern Ireland (rest of the UK), you will need to pay an annual tuition fee. This fee is set by the individual institutions, and is subject to change each academic year. If you wish to study for a postgraduate degree, you will be required to pay a tuition fee at the ‘home’ rate. This fee is also set by each institution, so contact them for more fee information. You will be eligible for tuition fee loans and living grants, get in touch with your home funding body (e.g. Student Finance England) to learn more about this.

If you are from any other country, you will need to pay international tuition fees for both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. At degree level, tuition fees for international students vary from £12,000 per year to over £20,000 for an MBA. The fees vary depending on the institution and subject area, with laboratory-based subjects costing more than those based in the classroom. Tuition fees will be set by each institution, so contact them for information.

Students from all over the world are eligible for scholarships, so make sure to ask your institution for information regarding this. Saltire Scholarships are the most well-known scholarship source for international students looking to study in Scotland. The funding, which is on a matched basis between the Scottish Government and the Institutions, offers up to £8,000 towards tuition fees for a postgraduate degree at a Scottish University.

It is worth noting that the application for these scholarships is competitive and they are only available to students from certain countries. See the Saltire Scholarships webpage for more information.

If you are studying at degree level in Scotland, you may be able to get a part-time job to help pay for your living costs. This tends to be limited to up to 20 hours a week, so should not be relied on as funding. If you require a visa to study in Scotland, you will have to prove you have sufficient funds before you come to Scotland, so part-time work cannot be your only way of funding your studies.

Scottish Student Visas

Depending on where you are from, you may need to apply for a visa in order to study in Scotland.

If you are from an EU country, as well as the rest of the UK, you will not need a visa to study in Scotland. This also applies if you are from a country within the EEA, including Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

If you are from any other country, you will need to apply for a visa before you can come to Scotland. Generally, international students wanting to study at all degree levels will need to apply for a Tier 4  (General) student visa. This will allow you to arrive in Scotland up to 1 month before your course begins, as long as your course is more than 6 months. How long your visa lasts for will depend on the duration of your course. You will be able to apply to extend your stay if needed, however. For information regarding eligibility, price and procedures for this visa, please visit the GOV.UK visa page.

You can apply for a visa as a prospective student if you need to come to Scotland to finalise your study arrangements. For example, if you need to attend an interview at a Scottish university but do not need a long term visa, a prospective student visa will allow you to do this. You will need to apply for a Tier 4 (General) student visa if you then choose to study at a Scottish institution.


Scotland has two official languages; English and Scottish Gaelic. There are also two other recognised languages, these are Scots and British Sign Language.

The vast majority of courses are offered in English, and you will likely have to prove your English language proficiency to be accepted onto a degree. If your language skills do not meet the required standard, it is common for universities to offer English language courses to help you improve.



The capital city of Scotland, the city of Edinburgh is home to just over 500,000 people. Edinburgh welcomes more than 1 million tourists a year, due to its historical and cultural attractions. The city is a cultural mixing pot, and the perfect place for any international student.

Edinburgh plays host to three universities, with a large student population. You will find the University of Edinburgh in the city, as well as Heriot-Watt University and Edinburgh Napier University, all of which are well placed in the league tables.

Find out more about Universities in Edinburgh.


The most populous city in Scotland, Glasgow is home to around 620,000 people. This population also makes Glasgow the third most populous city in the United Kingdom. The city is known for its unique dialect, as well as its rise during the industrial revolution.

Glasgow is a major centre of higher education and academic research, with 10 universities and higher education institutions in and around the city centre. You will find the University of Glasgow in the city, as well as the University of Strathclyde, City of Glasgow College, and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Find out more about Universities in Glasgow.


Home to just under 200,000 people, Aberdeen is located in the north-east of Scotland. Many of Aberdeen’s buildings incorporate quarried grey granite, making them sparkle like silver in the light. The city hosts many cultural and historical events, and has lots of museums and galleries.

Aberdeen has two universities, both of which have good reputations for their teaching and research. You will find the University of Aberdeen in the city, as well as Robert Gordon University. The University of Aberdeen was founded in 1495, and is a public research university. Robert Gordon University, sometimes known as RGU, was founded in the mid-18th century, but was granted university status in 1992.

Find out more about Universities in Aberdeen.


With a strong history in industrial development, Dundee is located in the north-east of Scotland. The city of Dundee was the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design, due to its diverse contribution to fields such as medical research, comics and video games. Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctic exploration vessel, the RRS Discovery, was built in Dundee, and now resides in the city’s port.

You will find two universities in Dundee, and a student population of around 20,000. The University of Dundee, which became independent in 1967, and has one of the UK’s top medical schools. Abertay University, founded as the Dundee Institute of Technology in 1888, was granted university status in 1994. It is known for its computing and creative technology courses, particularly computer games technology. The creators of Grand Theft Auto are among the alumni of Abertay University.

Find out more about Universities in Dundee.

See all universities in the UK.

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