Higher education in Scotland

Unlike Dutch higher education, Scottish higher education is not divided into and . Scottish higher education institutions can offer both types of education. This often means that for each diploma we have to determine whether it is HBO or WO. Below, we describe the diplomas that we often see.

Admission to higher education

For admission to Scottish universities and colleges, prospective students need to 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:

Higher National Certificate (HNC)

  • Duration: 1 year.
  • Study load: 96 Scottish credits.
  • Content: usually practical, profession-oriented courses.
  • Admission requirements:
  • Function of the diploma: work or enrollment in the 2nd year of an honours bachelor's programme (BSc Hons) or an honours master's programme (MA Hons) are:
  • Diploma: Higher National Certificate (HNC).

We compare a Higher National Certificate (HNC) to 1 year of HBO.

Higher National Diploma (HND)

  • Duration: 2 years.
  • Study load: 240 Scottish credits.
  • Content: usually practical, professio-oriented subjects, sometimes scientifically oriented subjects.
  • Admission requirements: see requirements for HNC. Students with an HNC can enrol in the 2nd year of an HND programme.
  • Function of the diploma: work or enrollment in the 3rd year of an ordinary bachelor's programme.
  • Diploma: Higher National Diploma (HND).

We compare a Higher National Diploma (HND) to 2 years of HBO.

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.

  • Duration: 3 years.
  • Study load: 360 Scottish credits.
  • Content: coursework, no thesis.
  • Admission requirements: a Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC) with 4 Highers.
  • Diploma: a bachelor’s degree, such as a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts. 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 a Scottish bachelor’s degree to 3 years of HBO or 2 years of 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 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.

  • Duration: 3 years.
  • Study load: 360 Scottish credits.
  • Content: coursework, no thesis.
  • Admission requirements: a Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC) with 4 Highers.
  • Diploma: Master of Arts degree. The word ‘Honours’ will not appear after the degree on the degree certificate. This indicates that it is an ordinary degree.

We compare a Scottish Master of Arts degree to 3 years of HBO or 2 years of WO. This depends on the content of the study programme.

Bachelor (Honours) degree

Scottish honours bachelor’s programmes 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 programmes.

  • Duration: 4 years.
  • Study load: 480 Scottish credits.
  • Content: coursework and a thesis or project.
  • Admission requirements: a Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC) with 4 Highers.
  • Diploma: a Bachelor’s (Honours) degree, such as a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree and a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree.

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

Master’s degree

Students can obtain a master's degree after completing a postgraduate 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 of study.
  • Diploma: Master’s degree, such as:
    • Master of Arts (MA);
    • Master of Business Administration (MBA);
    • Master of Letters (MLitt);
    • Master of Science (MSc).

Please note: 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 (above).

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

Master of Research (MRes)

Just like in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, students can do Master of Research (MRes) programmes.

Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

Just like in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, students can do Master of Philosophy (MPhil) programmes.

Doctor of Philosophy

Just like in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, students can do PhD programmes (Doctor of Philosophy).

Professional doctorate

Just like in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, students can do professionally oriented PhD programmes (Professional doctorate).