The Scottish Education System

If you are thinking about studying in Scotland there's a wide range of top universities and colleges. However, Scottish education can be unique from other countries, with different meanings for 'university', 'college' and 'school'. We have a quick guide below, outlining the differences when studying in Scotland.

Scottish Universities

At this level, students undertake degree-level education that usually requires four years to complete. Students only gain qualification at the end of this period.

Degree courses at Scottish universities cover academic subjects, while some can be vocational. Universities in Scotland encourage a greater level of independence, with the student primarily responsible for their own learning.

Today, Scottish universities are leading the way in innovations in areas such as life sciences, medical research, biotechnology, and environmental sciences.

Find out more about our universities. 

Scottish Colleges

College courses are considered to be more vocational, with studies predominantly leading straight into employment within a specific industry. There are a number of course levels such as a Higher National Certificate (one year to complete) or a Higher National Diploma (two years to complete).

Each level offers a certified qualification. This means college students have something to show for each year of work.

Colleges work in partnership with local authorities and employers to deliver high quality Modern Apprenticeship (MA) programmes - over 10,000 college students are currently in MA programmes.

Not only do colleges work in partnership with employers to prepare students for work, some also have arrangements with universities to allow fast track degree entry. So if you are thinking about continuing to study in Scotland, college can provide further options.

Scottish Schools (pre-university education)

The term 'school' is normally used in Scotland to describe state or private education, both primary and secondary, which concludes at age sixteen. After which students have the opportunity to continue their education by attending college or university.

Scotland provides free education to all children living in Scotland (and have done so as early as the 17th century!). Scotland's schools operate a Curriculum for Excellence which provides knowledge, skills and attributes for learning and life to all nursery, primary and secondary schooling between the ages of 3 - 18. Qualifications are taken in the final three years of secondary school which qualify students for further or higher education.

Lifelong Learning

The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership (SCQF) promotes lifelong learning in Scotland. Through the Framework you can gain a better understanding of qualifications in Scotland and plan your future learning.

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