Higher Education in Scotland >

Within the United Kingdom there are four different higher education systems. Although there are common features of the systems that operate in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, each also has its distinctive aspects. The following paragraphs briefly outline the system in Scotland, with particular reference to quality.

The Scottish context

There are 19 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Scotland, which vary in mission, size and profile. Higher education (HE) is the responsibility of the Scottish Executive, which is answerable to the Scottish Parliament. 

The HEIs are independent, self-governing bodies, active in teaching research and scholarship. They decide the degrees they offer; the conditions on which they are awarded and the admissions arrangements. Degrees and other higher education qualifications are legally owned by the awarding institution, not by the state.

The HEIs offer qualifications at undergraduate (Bologna first cycle) and postgraduate (Bologna second and third cycle) levels. In Scotland, the law distinguishes the power to award degrees on the basis of completion of taught programmes from the power to award research degrees. Universities have powers to award taught and research degrees. Some other HEIs have powers to award degrees while others offer programmes leading to degrees awarded by HEIs with degree awarding powers.

A small number of Degrees are available in colleges of further education by the authority of a duly empowered HEI.

Undergraduate degrees at Scottish higher education institutions generally last three years (at ordinary degree level) or four years (at honours level), although some specific courses are longer. The majority of students will expect to spend four years gaining a degree. Entry is often to a department or faculty, rather than to a specific programme of study, affording greater flexibility in subject/programme choice.