8 reasons why you should study in Scotland

Over 83,000 international students from 180 countries choose to study in Scotland each year, representing over one-third of the student population.

As a nation, Scotland has so much to offer. World-class, prestigious universities, a flexible and varied curriculum, a fascinating history, stunning architecture and mind-blowing natural landscapes.

Scotland also has an impressive range of institutions to choose from for a relatively small country. Among its 19 higher education institutions, there are 16 universities, plus the Glasgow School of Art, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and Scotland's Rural College. Based on its population, this is the highest concentration of universities in Europe.

Scottish universities offer a world-class education and are globally ranked.

1. Study at one of Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions (four of which are in the global top 200)

Scottish universities are globally valued for their world-class teaching, outstanding universities, and reputation for producing creative thinkers. Four of Scotland's 19 higher education institutions are in the top 200 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and QS World University Rankings. This is especially remarkable for a small country facing rapidly growing international competition.

'Scottish universities achieve great success in the global ranking tables and are second in the world on a per capita basis'.

The four top-ranked universities in Scotland are also the oldest in the UK, except for Oxford and Cambridge. The University of St Andrews was founded in 1413, the University of Glasgow in 1451, the University of Aberdeen in 1495 and the University of Edinburgh in 1582.

Scotland is second in the world in terms of international student enrolment per capita. It is also significantly more popular than other leading student destinations of comparable size, such as Switzerland, New Zealand, Singapore, Ireland, and other EU countries.

Scotland's higher education sector has always been characterised by its diversity. In addition to the ancient universities and small specialist institutions, the four 'chartered universities'—the University of Dundee, Heriot Watt University, the University of Stirling, and Strathclyde University—received university status in the 1960s. They are modern and vibrant and attract students from all over the world each year.

Chrislyn from Malaysia chose to study at the University of Glasgow. 'I knew that if I was to pursue a postgraduate degree, I wanted to do it somewhere at the top of its game. The University of Glasgow is excellent in outputting research and actively shaping how people understand and interact with intellectual property, especially copyright law. I was also attracted to its ranking. It is among the top 100 universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings'. 'I spoke to people studying at the university, and I could tell that the student satisfaction was high'.

'88 per cent of international students in Scotland are satisfied with all aspects of their experience at Scottish Universities. This is amongst the highest rates of student satisfaction with the quality of teaching in the UK'. (International Student Barometer, 2022).

Whatever you want to study, you will find a course for you.

2. Choose from a wide range of courses

Scotland's universities offer over 4,500 courses in more than 150 subject groupings at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, with a flexible degree structure and a great range of degree combinations.

Subjects that are especially highly ranked include medicine and medical sciences, human biology, veterinarian science, earth and marine sciences, economics, politics and international studies, philosophy, archaeology, and English literature.

Dr Falak Syed, from Pakistan, studied for a master's in forensic odontology at the University of Dundee. Forensic odontology is the expert study of dental evidence to establish facts, such as what happened in a crime or identifying bodies in a disaster. She says, 'at the time [that she applied], the University of Dundee was the only place in the UK which offered a postgraduate course in the subject'. 'As part of the course, we got to work with local police and mortuaries. To be able to apply my learning so directly to the real world gave me a huge sense of purpose and was very different from just studying theory in a lecture hall', she says.

Students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland enjoying the flexibility of the Scottish education system.

3. Benefit from flexible undergraduate degrees, and save time and money with a one-year master's

You may or may not know that, unlike the rest of the UK, in Scotland, you can complete your first two years of undergraduate study before specialising in the final two years. This means that if you're not 100 per cent sure of what you want to study, you can come and learn a wide range of subject matter in your first two years and decide halfway through your four-year programme on what degree you'd like to graduate from.

Changes can be made to your degree without losing time or repeating any academic years. This flexibility is valued both by staff and students and encourages curiosity throughout your university experience. Studying across disciplines will enrich you and give you perspectives you might not otherwise have had access to. The four-year undergraduate degree also allows students to engage in specialised original research during the third or fourth year of your programme.

Maddie, from the US, studied international relations and French at the University of St Andrews. 'Aside from my language classes, which consisted of written and oral components, I decided to take a module on liberty and literature in the Age of Enlightenment and another on conflict management, settlement, and resolution, looking at, for example, how the UN would manage complex situations and do it differently than states versus a more grassroots approach.'

Additionally, in Scotland, most master's programmes are offered over a one-year period, allowing you to save time and money, unlike some competitor countries' two-year courses.

4. Gain access to scholarships for international students

Scotland has a cost of living which is almost 50 per cent lower than London, on average. In addition to the lower cost of living compared to much of the rest of the UK, Scotland offers a wide range of scholarships for international students ranging from part-funded, for example, paying part of your fees, to fully funded, which covers programme fees, living expenses, and return flights to the UK.

Beyond the financial benefits, as a scholar in Scotland, you'll have the opportunity to meet and spend time with scholars on your scholarship programme - and others - who are also studying there. You'll also have many opportunities for personal and professional growth and networking during your studies.

Chrislyn, from Malaysia, was awarded the GREAT Scholarship which enabled her to study at the University of Glasgow. She says 'I knew it would give me access to an incredible, diverse, international community of scholars from whom I could learn, interact with, and build upon shared experiences. the scholarship has lived up to and even surpassed my expectations'.

Chevening, Commonwealth, GREAT Scholarships, Fullbright Scholarships, and British Council Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Scholarships are all available in Scotland, as are institution-specific scholarships and sanctuary scholarships for students fleeing conflict in their home countries.

You can see a full list of scholarships you are eligible for by using our course and scholarships finder below. You can also learn more about UK student finance, scholarships, and other funding on the UK Council for International Student Affairs website.

Before you graduate, get hands-on professional experience during your degree.

5. Put theory into practice and boost your global career prospects

While studying in Scotland, most degree programmes are practically based and teach students not only theory but also how to apply it, for example, through tutorials and lab sessions, project-based learning and even international mobility opportunities. Scottish universities have a strong focus on graduate employability. Courses are structured so students learn useful skills, gain hands-on professional experience, and engage with academics and experts in their fields to help them in their careers.

Scottish universities proactively collaborate with employers across the business, industry, and public sectors who value international talent in Scotland. Studying here can involve professional work placements, internships, industry-led and linked projects, and even founding start-ups. So, whether you want to become an academic, find work in an existing company locally or internationally, or set up your own, studying in Scotland will help you stand out in a global jobs market.

‘95 per cent of graduates from Scottish universities are in employment or training within six months of graduation’ (The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, 2020).

‘One of the things I loved about my course at the University of Edinburgh was that it was very practical and brought everything to life’, says Mariam from Nigeria who did her master’s in climate change finance and investment. ‘In one of my modules, I had to build an equity portfolio from scratch and decarbonise it'.

Mariam says, 'I was given data from one of the most well-known stock market indexes, the S&P 500, to get me started. I then had to build the portfolio to reduce the carbon intensity and justify the environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. Finally, I had the opportunity to give recommendations and implications to real asset managers in relation to what I built’, she says. ‘People from other organisations, like McKinsey, would also come into the classroom and speak to us. They shared their real-life experiences working in the sector, making it easier to imagine how it might look and feel to work in this sector in the UK and internationally'.

In Scotland, you can make friends from all over the world, and explore interests you never knew you had.

6. Make new friends and discover new interests

With over 1,000 student societies and 500 sports clubs across Scotland's 19 higher education institutions, you're spoiled for choice in how to spend your time when you're not studying. Bradley, from South Africa, who's studying mechanical engineering at the University of Dundee was amazed at the options available to him. 'The university has hundreds of sports clubs and societies, and I've been able to discover passions I didn't know I had'. 'I didn't expect to come to Scotland and fall in love with surfing, being from South Africa. But that's what happened'.

Lorraine, from Germany, who does fashion design at Glasgow Caledonian University says that one of the best things about her university experience, outside of class, is the societies. 'There's everything', she says, 'from arts and fashion design, to dancing and choir. There's so much you can do and it's such a good way to get to meet people'.

Get involved in the local culture, and make Scotland your home away from home.

7. Join a diverse, open and inclusive society

'In my experience, Scotland is really open', says Faizan, from Pakistan, who studies computer science at the University of Aberdeen. 'One of the best things about studying in Scotland is that the people here are really nice and the teachers are so supportive'. Similarly, Stacy, from India, who studies human resource management at Robert Gordon University, says, 'After coming here, I've felt like Scotland has become my home, and I feel like part of this community. When I first moved here, the culture was a bit different but the people I've met along the way have all made me feel included'.

'I have friends from every continent' says Irene, from Kenya, who studied data science at Robert Gordon University. 'Aberdeen is so diverse and you can always find somewhere you belong. I have met people from all over the world, and it's been interesting to learn more about other cultures and communities'. 'Some of my friends from Kerala in the south of India have welcomed me to their events like Holi, the Indian festival of colours'.

If you want to improve your English, Scotland is a welcoming place to do that. You'll even be able to pick up some local slang and familiarise yourself with some local accents. Irene says, 'I did not know how varied the accents would be before I came and the Glasgow accent was quite a challenge to get used to in the beginning'. 'Even if your English is not amazing at the start, local people really make sure that you can understand they and they're really kind', says Maike, from Germany, who studies business and management at Queen Margaret University.

All aboard the Hogwarts Express: the Jacobite Steam Train crossing over Glenfinnan Viaduct.

8. Be enchanted by the local architecture and landscape

Scotland is well known as the 'birthplace of Harry Potter', specifically the Elephant House Café in Edinburgh. Many students are enchanted by the ancient architecture and striking natural landscapes across the country. Nebula, from Indonesia, who studied creative industries and cultural policy at the University of Glasgow says, 'One of the reasons I decided to study in Scotland is because it looks like one giant Harry Potter scene'. Chrislyn, from Malaysia, who also studied at the University of Glasgow, was also attracted by the local architecture. 'I loved the university building. It was so magical. It's such a historical, gorgeous gothic building and it looks like something straight out of Harry Potter. The magical aura here has enhanced my experience and made everything feel even more glorious'. If you have time, you can also head up to take the Jacobite Steam Train across the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

Group of friends sitting on Calton Hill with the National Monument in the background.

Thinking about studying in Scotland?

Visit Study in Scotland to find out why more than 83,000 students from over 180 different countries choose to study in Scotland every year, and how you can too.

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Study in Scotland

World-class universities, stunning landscapes, and gothic castles - find out why 83,000 international students chose to study in Scotland each year.

Scholarships and funding

Would you like to turn your dream of studying in the UK into a reality? There are many funding and scholarship options available for international students.

World-famous universities

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