Universities in Edinburgh, Scotland

Picture of brown concrete buildings lit by the sunshine

The Balmoral Hotel. shown in the foreground here, is a historic hotel and landmark in the city of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland in the United Kingdom, with a population of over half a million residents and a centuries-long history. The Edinburgh Castle, located in central Edinburgh and visible from nearly every neighbourhood, is an iconic symbol of the city as well as Scotland.

Edinburgh has a long tradition as a centre for excellence in education, especially in fields such as medicine, literature and engineering. The opportunities for employment available to international students in Edinburgh are proven by the fact that Edinburgh is the United Kingdom’s second-largest financial centre after London. The city is home to multiple international firms and large-scale employers.

Top Universities in Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh

Founded in 1583 and currently home to over 32,000 students, the University of Edinburgh is a centuries-old university with a history of world-class teaching, especially in the fields of medicine and veterinary science. The university has an exceptionally high ratio of international students, who make up nearly 45% of the overall enrolment. Additionally, nearly 250 students at the university participate in the study abroad programme every year, and there are frequently students from over 70 different countries studying at the University of Edinburgh Business School.

The University of Edinburgh also provides top-quality research facilities and receives over 220 Million US Dollars every year in research funding. Research institutes at the university such as the Institute of Cell Biology and the institute of Molecular Science are well-known for their frequent research publications. In fact, the university is the only Scottish member university of the Russell Group, a prestigious group of 24 Universities in the United Kingdom with a shared focus on research and a reputation for academic achievement.

Heriot-Watt University

Founded in 1821, Heriot-Watt University is especially well-regarded for the strength of its courses in business and industry studies. The university has almost 10,000 enrolled students of which nearly 3,600 are international students. Heriot-Watt is located on five campuses worldwide, including satellite campuses in Dubai and Malaysia, established in 2005 and 2014 respectively.

The university also operates the top-ranked Edinburgh Business School which offers courses at MBA, MSc and DBA level. Heriot-Watt is also well-regarded for its research facilities, and operates the International Centre for Island Technology on its Orkney campus in North Scotland.

Edinburgh Napier University

Originally known as the Napier Technical College, Edinburgh Napier University is home to over 18,000 students from more than 100 countries. The university is an urban university situated in three neighbourhoods across Edinburgh – Sighthill, Merchiston and Craiglockhart.

With a graduate employability rate of over 93%, international students at Edinburgh Napier are well-placed to locate exciting career opportunities after graduation. The university also ranks highly for student satisfaction and living infrastructure, which will be important factors for international students.

Scotland’s Rural College University (SRUC)

Founded in 2012 following a merger between Barony, Elmwood, Oatridge Colleges and the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), SRUC is an agriculture-focused university with a reputation for world-class agricultural research and innovation.

International students interested in agricultural science & research will greatly benefit from the practical skills they can learn at SRUC – the university has a student-operated consulting arm which supports more than 12,000 rural businesses in England from 25 offices and eight veterinary disease surveillance centres.

SRUC is a small-scale university with just under 1,500 enrolled students, of which nearly 200 are international students. The small class sizes allow for greater attention from faculty and more research opportunities for international students. SRUC operates six satellite campuses around Scotland in addition to its primary Edinburgh campus.

The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

One of the world’s oldest medical institutes, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh was founded in 1505 and offers specialised courses in a range of medical subjects. The Royal College also operates satellite campuses in Birmingham as well as Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

The Royal College also offers multiple online-only modules for remote-learning international students, including popular courses such as the  Post-Graduate Certificate in Remote and Offshore Medicine (CertROM). The Royal College is also especially well-known for its research and teaching in the field of Dentistry, which has been taught at the Royal College since its founding in 1505.

Edinburgh Universities World Ranking 2023

Below are the top-ranked Edinburgh universities for international students, with their ranks in two of the world’s most well-respected international university rankings, the QS 2023 University World rankings and the Times Higher Education 2023 Rankings.

For more information about rankings systems and methodologies see our University rankings explained guide.

UniversityQS World Ranking 2023Times Higher Education Ranking 2023QS Rank in the UKTHE Rank in the UK
The University of Edinburgh152955
Heriot-Watt University=281501-6003365
Edinburgh Napier University801-1,000401-5006651
Scotland’s Rural College University401-50057

As the rankings above show, Edinburgh has as many as four universities ranked in the global Top 600 by either QS or THE world rankings.

International students should also note that although it is not ranked by either QS or THE, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh remains very highly-ranked in specialised medical institute rankings by most global agencies.

List of other top-ranked Colleges & Universities in Edinburgh

In addition to the five top-ranked Edinburgh universities, Edinburgh also offers multiple world-class institutes for work-study programs and other specialised degrees for international students. A few such top-ranked Edinburgh institutes are:

Tuition and Living Costs in Edinburgh

Undergraduate tuition costs for international students in top-ranked Edinburgh universities can vary between 25,000-30,000 US Dollars per year. Tuition fees are higher for specialised programmes, such as Dentistry and Healthcare courses, at about 38,000-40,000 US Dollars per year. Postgraduate tuition fees, meanwhile, depend on the specific programme and courses selected, and usually range between 20,000 and 35,000 US Dollars per annum.

As for living costs, the University of Edinburgh estimates that you should budget between 10,500 and 13,500 US Dollars per year, or 900-1,150 US Dollars monthly. This figure includes about 650-750 US Dollars for shared accommodation, 200 US Dollars for food expenses, and another 150-200 US Dollars for utilities and miscellaneous expenses. International students should make sure to apply for all relevant student discounts on public transport, as this can help you save up on your budget.

Life in Edinburgh for International Students

The beautiful sights around the city of Edinburgh are nearly as attractive as the natural beauty of the Scottish countryside, with its world-famous lakes and rolling hills which will be excellent weekend destinations for international students in Edinburgh.

Aside from the stunning outdoor areas, Edinburgh also provides international students with access to world-class theatre, art, music and food. Additionally, with excellent connectivity between Edinburgh and other English cities such as Manchester and London, international students can comfortably travel from their home countries to their university in Edinburgh.

Below are a few of the must-see attractions in Edinburgh and its surrounding areas for international students:

  • Edinburgh Castle
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
  • Arthur’s Seat 
  • Calton Hill
  • Palace of Holyroodhouse
  • Scottish National Gallery
  • Edinburgh Zoo
  • Royal Mile
  • St Giles’ Cathedral
  • Rosslyn Chapel
  • Dynamic Earth
  • Princes Street Garden
  • Scottish National Portrait Gallery

As the above list shows, the endless list of exciting venues in Edinburgh means international students will never run out of engaging activities during their time away from the classroom.

With its world-class university infrastructure, large-scale international student communities and value-for-money living costs, Edinburgh represents an excellent option for international students interested in pursuing their degrees in the United Kingdom.

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