List of universities in Scotland

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The University of St Andrews, Scotland's oldest university, opened in the early fifteenth century.

There are currently fifteen universities in Scotland[1] and three other institutions of higher education which have the authority to award academic degrees. All Scottish universities have the power to award degrees at all levels: undergraduate, taught postgraduate, and doctoral. Scotland's oldest university is the University of St. Andrews (founded in 1413) and the newest is the University of the Highlands and Islands, which achieved full university status in 2011. Education in Scotland is controlled by the Scottish Government under the terms of the Scotland Act 1998. The minister responsible for higher education is the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, currently Mike Russell MSP of the Scottish National Party.[2] University status in Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom today is conferred by the Privy Council which takes advice from the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.[3][4] Scottish universities award degrees and conduct research in almost every conceivable academic, scientific and professional discipline.

In the 2011-12 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, five Scottish universities are among the top 200 worldwide: University of Edinburgh (at 36), University of St. Andrews (at 85), University of Glasgow (at 102), University of Aberdeen (at 151), and the University of Dundee (at 176).[5]

All Scottish universities are public universities and funded by the Scottish Government (through its Scottish Funding Council[6]) and financial support is provided for Scottish-domiciled students by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland. Students ordinarily resident in Scotland or the European Union do not pay tuition fees for their first undergraduate degree, but tuition fees are charged for those from the rest of the United Kingdom. All students are required to pay tuition fees for postgraduate education (e.g. MSc, PhD), except in certain priority areas funded by the Scottish Government, or if another source of funding can be found (e.g. research council studentship for a PhD). A representative body called Universities Scotland works to promote Scotland's universities, as well as six other higher education institutions.[7]

Students and Degrees Awarded[edit]

Kings College, University of Aberdeen in 2013

In 2008-2009, approximately 231,000 students studied at universities or institutes of higher education in Scotland, of which 56% were female and 44% male, with 75% being domiciled in Scotland, 12% from the rest of the United Kingdom, and the remainder international students. Of all these, approximately 130,000 were studying for their first degree (i.e. undergraduate level), 42,000 for a taught postgraduate degree (primarily a Masters degree) and 10,000 for a doctoral research degree (primarily PhD). The remainder were mostly on other programmes such as Higher National Diploma.[8] Of all these, 16,000 were studying in Scotland with the The Open University via distance-learning, and the Open University teaches 40% of Scotland's part-time undergraduates.[9]

The higher education system in Scotland is similar to that of the rest of the UK but has slight differences. Undergraduate degrees may awarded "with honours" (four years of study), or without honours and referred to as "designated" or "general" degrees (three years of study). Undergraduate degrees in arts and social sciences are awarded as Master of Arts (M.A.)at the ancient universities, i.e. those founded before 1600, but the level is comparable to a Bachelors degree in other countries. Newer institutions award the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) instead. Science degrees are usually awarded as Bachelor of Science (BSc), while Bachelors degrees are also available in other disciplines such as law (LLB), medicine (MBChB), education (BEd) and nursing (BN). Masters degrees are awarded in a wide range of disciplines following one (or occasionally two) years of study, such as Master of Science (MSc) for scientific and social science disciplines, Master of Letters (MLitt) for arts disciplines, and others such as Master of Business Administration (MBA). Doctoral degrees are awarded by research as Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), or by a taught programme in a professional discipline such as Doctor of Psychology (DPsych or DClinPsych) or Doctor of Education (EdD). Doctoral degrees require three (or occasionally four) years of study.


The University of St Andrews was established in 1413, with the universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen also dating back to the 15th century. These "ancient universities" were established by Papal bulls, but in the 16th century the royal charter became the standard method of foundation. The first of these established the University of Edinburgh, which became Scotland's fourth university while England had only two. The number of universities doubled during the 1960s, with some existing colleges gaining university status and the University of Stirling was planned and established as Scotland's only plate glass university. Several former central institutions (comparable to the polytechnics in other parts of the UK) also became universities in the 1990s following the reforms of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992.

UniversityImageLocationYear of foundationYear of royal charterMottoNotes
University of St AndrewsThe 15th-century St Salvator's Chapel in the winter sunSt Andrews, Fife14101413 [10]ΑΙΕΝ ΑΡΙΣΤΕΥΕΙΝ
Ever to be the best
University status conferred on 28 August 1413 by a papal bull of Pope Benedict XIII [10]
University of GlasgowUniversity of Glasgow Gilbert Scott Building - Feb 2008-2.jpgGlasgow14511451 [11]Via, Veritas, Vita
The way, the truth, and the life
University status conferred on 7 January 1451 by a papal bull of Pope Nicholas V [12]
University of AberdeenKing's College, Aberdeen - - 108991Aberdeen14951860Initium sapientiae timor domini
The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord

Established as King's College, Aberdeen in 1495 by a papal bull of Pope Alexander VI, and in 1860 merged with Marischal College (established 1593 as Aberdeen's second university)

University of EdinburghOld College Quad.jpgEdinburgh15821583Established as the "Tounis College" in 1583, after James VI of Scotland granted the Edinburgh Town Council a royal charter to establish a college on April 14, 1582.[13]
University of StrathclydeUniversity of Strathclyde Campus, GlasgowGlasgow1796[14]1964The Place of Useful LearningGranted University Status by Royal Charter in 1964, although the precursor Anderson Institute can be traced back to 1796 and the name Anderson's University was used between 1828 and 1887.
Heriot-Watt UniversityHeriot-Watt Reception.jpgEdinburgh18211966First established 1821 as the School of Arts of Edinburgh
University of DundeeDundee University.jpgDundee18811967Magnificat Anima Mea Dominum
My soul glorifies the Lord
First established 1881 as a college of the University of St Andrews, known first as University College, then Queen's College, until establishment as an independent university in 1967
University of StirlingFmstirlinguni.jpgStirling19671967Innovation and ExcellencePlanned as part of the Robbins Report of 1963, and constructed at a greenfield site on the estate of Airthrey Castle.
Edinburgh Napier UniversityNapier University Merchiston CampusEdinburgh19641992Nisi Sapientia Frustra
Without knowledge all is in vain
First established 1964 as Napier Technical College
The Robert Gordon UniversityPlaza at The Robert Gordon University 1.jpgAberdeen17501992Omni Nunc Arte Magistra
Now by all your mastered arts
First established 1750 as Robert Gordon's Hospital
Glasgow Caledonian UniversitySaltire Centre, GCU.jpgGlasgow18751993For the Common Weal
For the common good
The University traces its origin to The Queen's College, Glasgow (founded 1875) and the Glasgow Polytechnic (founded 1971)
University of Abertay DundeeLibrary, University of Abertay, Dundee - - 1154390Dundee18881994First established in 1888 as Dundee College of Technology
Queen Margaret UniversityQueen Margaret University main building.jpgMusselburgh, East Lothian18752007First established 1875 as The Edinburgh School of Cookery and Domestic Economy
University of the West of ScotlandJohn Witherspoon statue in Paisley.jpgPaisley, Hamilton, Dumfries and Ayr18362007Success Takes Know How: Together We've Got ItFirst established 1836 as a School of Arts, then in 1992 as the University of Paisley, and re-formed in 2007 following a merger with Bell College.
University of the Highlands and IslandsExecutive Offices of the University of the Highlands and Islands, InvernessHighlands,
Western Isles
and Northern Isles
20012011A federation of colleges, planned from 1992 onwards and first established in 2001 as the UHI Millennium Institute[15] and awarded full university status in February 2011. The central administration and largest college is in Inverness.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Briefing". Universities Scotland. Retrieved 2011-04-01. 
  2. ^ "Michael Russell MSP". Scottish Government. Retrieved 23 October 2011. 
  3. ^ "The Privy Council, Standard Note: SN/PC/3708". The Privy Council. 5 July 2005. pp. 5–6. Retrieved 2010-07-06. 
  4. ^ "A brief guide to QAA's involvement in degree-awarding powers and university title". Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. Retrieved 2010-07-06. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Higher Education". The Scottish Government. Retrieved 2010-07-06. 
  7. ^ "Universities Scotland". Retrieved 2010-09-07. 
  8. ^ Scottish Government (2011). Statistics Publication Notice Lifelong Learning Series: Students In Higher Education At Scottish Institutions. Retrieved from
  9. ^ "The Open University in Scotland". The Open University. Retrieved 2010-07-06. 
  10. ^ a b "History of the University". University of St Andrews. Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  11. ^ "History". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  12. ^ "On This Day: 7th of January". The University of Glasgow Story. University of Glasgow. Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  13. ^ MacGregor, Geddes (1990). Scotland: An Intimate Portrait. Mariner Books. ISBN 0395562368. 
  14. ^ "History". University of Strathclyde. Retrieved 2013-08-24. 
  15. ^ "History of UHI". University of the Highlands and Islands. Retrieved 2011-01-04. 
  16. ^ "Introducing the University of the Highlands and Islands". University of the Highlands and Islands. Retrieved 2011-01-04.