The types of higher education institutions in Scotland are comparable to those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There are universities and non-university institutions such as colleges, institutes, schools and academies.

Scottish higher education is divided into:

Undergraduate degree programmes

Students in Scotland can obtain the following degrees by completing undergraduate degree programmes:

Bachelor's degree

Some Scottish universities, such as the University of Dundee, offer full 3-year ordinary bachelor degree programmes. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, an ordinary bachelor degree is an intermediate award. In Scotland, however, it is a final diploma. The words ‘designated degree’ are sometimes recorded on the diploma for this Bachelor’s degree.

Please note: the word ‘Honours’ will not appear after the degree on the degree certificate. This indicates that it is an ordinary degree.

We compare the Scottish Bachelor’s degree to 3 years of higher professional education (HBO) or 2 years of research-oriented higher education (WO). This depends on the content of the study programme.

Master of Arts degree

For historical reasons, students can obtain a Master of Arts degree (MA) after an undergraduate degree programme at the 4 ‘traditional’ Scottish (Aberdeen, St Andrews, Edinburgh and Glasgow) and at the University of Dundee and Heriot-Watt University. In contrast to what we usually see, the Master of Arts degree from these universities is an undergraduate degree and not a postgraduate degree.

Please note: in arts subjects, these universities also award Bachelor of Arts degrees. This Bachelor of Arts has the same level as this Master of Arts degree.

We compare the Scottish Master of Arts degree is comparable to 3 years of higher professional education (HBO) or 2 years of research-oriented higher education (WO). This depends on the content of the study programme.

Bachelor (Honours) degree

Scottish Bachelor’s degree programmes with honours last 4 years, a year longer than in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This is because students in Scotland start at a lower level than students from English Bachelor’s degree programmes.

We compare the Scottish Bachelor (Honours) degree to an HBO or a WO bachelor’s degree. This depends on the content of the study programme.

Master of Arts (Honours) degree

For historical reasons, students can obtain a Master of Arts (Honours) degree after an undergraduate degree programme at the 4 ‘traditional’ Scottish (Aberdeen, St Andrews, Edinburgh and Glasgow) and at the University of Dundee and Heriot-Watt University. In contrast to what we usually see, the Master of Arts (Honours) degree from these universities is an undergraduate degree and not a postgraduate degree.

Please note: in arts subjects, these universities also award Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degrees. This Bachelor of Arts (Honors) has the same level as this Master of Arts (Honors) degree.

We compare the Scottish Master of Arts (Honours) degree to an HBO or a WO bachelor’s degree. This depends on the content of the study programme.

Postgraduate degree programmes

Students in Scotland can obtain the following degrees by completing postgraduate degree programmes:

Master’s degree

Students can obtain a master's degree after completing a postgraduate degree programme.

The ‘traditional’ universities of Aberdeen, St Andrews, Edinburgh and Glasgow, the University of Dundee and Heriot-Watt University award a Master of Letters (MLitt) or a Master of Science (MSc) degree rather than a Master of Arts (MA) degree.

  • Duration: 1 year.
  • Content: coursework and a thesis.
  • Admission requirements: an honours degree in a relevant field.
  • Diploma: Master’s degree, such as a Master of Science (MSc) or a Master of Letters (MLitt), Master of Arts (MA), Master of Business Administration (MBA).

We compare the Scottish Master’s degree (such as MA/Mlitt/MSc) to an HBO or a WO master’s degree. This depends on the content of the study programme.

Master’s degree via an integrated master's degree programme

Scottish educational institutions also offer integrated master’s degree programmes lasting 5 years. These degree programmes are essentially a combination of a bachelor’s and a master’s degree programme. Ultimately, students are awarded a master’s degree only, e.g. a Master of Engineering (MEng). These master’s degrees are at the same level as the degrees that students obtain after a standard master’s degree programme.

Non-degree programmes

Students can obtain the following diplomas after completing a non-degree programme at a Scottish college:

Higher National Certificate (HNC)

  • Duration: 1 year, 96 Scottish credits.
  • Content: usually practical, professionally oriented courses.
  • Admission requirements: the Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC) with National 5 qualifications and usually 2 Highers (sometimes 1 Higher) with a minimum grade of C; and/or the SQC with National 5 qualifications in combination with relevant units of a Higher.
  • Diploma: Higher National Certificate (HNC).

We compare the Higher National Certificate (HNC) to 1 year of higher professional education (HBO).

Higher National Diploma (HND)

  • Duration: 2 years, 240 Scottish credits.
  • Content: usually practical, professionally oriented courses, sometimes scientifically oriented subjects.
  • Admission requirements: see requirements for HNC. Students with an HNC can enrol in the 2nd year of an HND programme.
  • Diploma: Higher National Diploma (HND).

We compare the Higher National Diploma (HND) to 2 years of higher professional education (HBO).

With an HND, students can enrol in the 3rd year of an ordinary bachelor's programme (bachelor's degree).

Admission to higher education

Admission to Scottish universities and colleges also requires that prospective students submit an application to the UCAS.

Admission to universities

Requirements for admission to most Scottish universities are:

  • the Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC) with 4 Highers in 4 different curriculum areas with a score of A or B, often expressed as a letter combination, for example ABBB or AAAB;
  • plus sometimes certain subjects (generally mathematics and English) as a National 5 qualification; but
  • the admission requirements for medicine are stricter: more than 4 Highers plus 2 Advanced Highers.

Admission to the 2nd year

Requirements for admission to the 2nd year of an honours bachelor's programme (BSc Hons) or an honours master's programme (MA Hons) are:

Admission to a Higher National Certificate programme

Requirements for admission to the Scottish Higher National Certificate programme are:

  • the Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC) with National 5 qualifications and usually 2 Highers with a minimum grade of C; and/or
  • the Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC) with National 5 qualifications in combination with relevant units from a Higher.