In Scotland, we have always done things a little bit differently when it comes to education. In the final years of secondary school, students can sit a range of qualifications suited to their ability. These start with National 4 and National 5 qualifications (similar to GCSE level) in S4 and, sometimes, S5 - and go on to Highers which are our typical university entry level qualifications. Most students sit up to five Highers in one year, starting from S5, compared to the three A-Levels elsewhere in the UK.
More advanced students can go on to Advanced
Highers in their final year (S6). These are required
for Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary degrees,
but not typically for other subjects. They can also
study a mix of Highers and Advanced Highers
depending on what they have already achieved
and what they want to do next. Advanced Higher
students also have the opportunity to benefit from
advanced entry into the second year of a degree in
a related subject.
As you will see, the number of qualifications students can study means they have access to a broad range of subjects, which often increases their options after school. One pupil who wants to study a Science degree can also choose a Language and Music qualification at Higher Level as well as the Sciences because they enjoy those subjects. If students don’t know what they want to do after school, they would be encouraged to keep their subject choices broad - not to limit their options later on.
Typically a degree in Scotland is four years
long and is called an Honours degree. With the
exception of professional qualifications, the first
two years usually offer breadth of study, with the
final two years providing the specialisation in their
At Heriot-Watt University for instance, we have a common first year for Accounting and Finance, Business and Economics, giving students a strong background knowledge to draw upon after graduation. It also offers more choice throughout their studies; we often see students switch degrees during their four years and graduate in a different subject.
Typically A-Level students apply to the first year of a degree in Scotland, however those who have A-Levels with strong grades in related subjects should also consider advanced entry into year two.
This means their degree would take three years to complete, just the same as elsewhere in the UK. These two points of entry from A-Level, with different entry requirements, means there is a lot of flexibility on offer for A-Level students looking to study in Scotland.
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by Gideon Woldeslassie
posted on 11 Dec '23
Universities work hard to ensure that support for students is as accessible as possible, particularly to those most in need. This article will provide examples of the support which is likely be available, to ensure you’re aware of it, should need arise.