Ten things to know

Ten things to know about Scottish Higher Education

1. Our universities are amongst the very best in the world

Scotland has more world-class universities than any other country by head of population.
Five Scottish universities are ranked in the world’s top 200 according to the 2015 Times Higher Education rankings. This means five of Scotland's institutions are amongst the top one per cent of world's universities. The universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Aberdeen and Dundee feature in the top 200. All five climbed the rankings this year. In the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, we are also home to the third best performing arts institute in the world.

Scotland is also home to many of the world’s best modern universities. The University of Dundee, Heriot-Watt University, the University of Stirling and the Open University all featured in the world’s top 150 universities under 50 years old.

2. Scottish HE is home to world-leading research of outstanding impact

Every one of our universities undertakes research of world-leading quality, the impact of which reaches far beyond university walls. 86 per cent of Scottish research submitted to the Research Excellence Framework for 2014 was judged to have “outstanding” or “very considerable” impact.

The impact of this research is felt locally and across the world.

Scotland’s universities made the theoretical discovery of the Higgs Boson, they invented the MRI scanner, they were first to clone a mammal in Dolly the Sheep and they were the ones to discover the p53 protein – which remains one of the most important molecules in cancer research.

Today, our institutions continue to lead research into the biggest challenges and questions of our time. This includes medical research into the prevention and treatment of major killers such as heart disease, cancer, malaria and diabetes, developing new technologies and renewable energies and the development of policies for the successful integration of refugees.

It was university research in Scotland, based on Extensible Markup Language, that have made on-line experiences like ebay and BBC online possible. Research here increased the security of user-authentication on smart cards and has advanced forensic techniques that allow finger prints to be taken from cloth.

3. We take learning very seriously but we have fun doing it

Teaching is at the heart of what our universities do. Scotland’s universities were amongst the very first to put students right at the centre of the quality assurance of our education. Students have been a partner in our enhancement-led approach to learning for the last ten years.

Scotland comes top in the UK for student satisfaction with the quality of their course. 8 out of 9 international students would recommend Scotland as a place to study and more than 9 out of 10 say their lecturers are experts in their fields.

We take learning seriously but we also like to have fun. The students of University of Aberdeen march their newly elected Rector through the streets on the back of a bull (thankfully not a real one). At the University of St Andrews the end of freshers week sees huge numbers of students take part in a friendly foam fight as part of a longstanding annual tradition.

4. Universities create opportunities for people from all backgrounds

Scotland’s universities understand how transformational education can be. We see that first-hand every day. We want to create as many opportunities as possible for people with the potential to benefit from higher education, whatever their background, whatever route they have taken.

Universities are increasing the number of entrants from Scotland's most disadvantaged neighbourhoods year on year. We are committed to building on this progress and to working with the recommendations of the Commission for Widening Access. Three of our Principals are leading work on Articulation, Admissions and Bridging Programmes and the sector as a whole is engaging with the Commissioner for Fair Access, Sir Peter Scott.

As well as a wide range of activities for pupils, parents and teachers throughout school, aimed at raising attainment and aspiration, we have close partnerships with FE colleges. We believe in lifelong learning and put no age limit on access.

Across the sector, Scotland’s universities have embraced contextual admissions in a way not seen in other countries. Contextual admissions goes some way to levelling the playing field for university applicants by recognising that not everyone gets the same opportunities. This makes some academic and personal achievements all the more remarkable given individual circumstances. Some of our universities have been using contextual admissions for decades.

5. Scotland's HE sector creates jobs and wealth for Scotland

Our 19 higher education institutions generate £11 billion gross value added to the Scottish economy every year. That's £11 returned for every £1 of public investment.

Scotland's 19 institutions employ 38,450 directly and another 142,000 jobs are supported indirectly. That accounts for almost six per cent of all jobs in the Scottish economy.

Universities have a significant positive impact on their regional - as well as national - economy. Dundee University’s role in the life sciences cluster supports around 16 per cent of all jobs on Tayside. Edinburgh’s four universities combined are a larger employer than NHS Lothian. The University of Edinburgh is the city’s third largest employer on its own.

6. Our universities are innovative and entrepreneurial

Scotland's universities produce more spin-outs than any other region of the UK. What's more, active spin-outs are growing, creating more jobs and growing their total turnover in 2014/15.

Universities are a key part of Scotland's innovation landscape and have an important role in supporting businesses and others to innovate. Every year our institutions work with over 19,000 different organisations, 10,000 of them in Scotland, to develop new products and processes.

Scotland's universities are committed to supporting their students, graduates and staff to be entrepreneurial. A culture of entrepreneurship is being developed on all campuses to encourage more graduates to convert their ideas into enterprises.

7. Are proud to offer their graduates the best prospects in the UK

Graduates from Scotland's universities have the best record of securing professional-level jobs in the UK. Our graduates join the workforce with the highest starting salaries at an average of £22,000. £1,000 more than the comparable figure for English students and £2,000 above median earnings for those who attended university in Northern Ireland or Wales.

85% of Scotland's employers say they are satisfied or very satisfied with the work-readiness of graduates from our universities.

Highly-skilled graduates are important to Scotland's key industry sectors. They find solutions to today's technical, managerial and strategic challenges. Several multinational companies have invested in Scotland citing the graduate talent pool here as key amongst the pull-factors that informed their decision.

8. They are the destination of choice for over 50,000 students from over 180 different countries outside the UK

We are very proud to welcome over 25,000 European and 31,000 international students to study with us.

All can be assured of a warm Scottish welcome. Our international students are highly satisfied with the quality of the education they receive. Scotland outperforms global benchmarks for international student satisfaction. In 2017, we launched our #ScotlandWelcomesTheWorld campaign to highlight the massive contribution that students and staff from around the world make to Scottish HEIs and wider society.

You will find our universities dotted all around the world. There are campuses in Singapore, India, Dubai, Malaysia, the USA, and South Korea as well as Scottish HE delivered through partners’ campuses in Hong Kong, Singapore, and China.

9. Our higher education institutions are proud to be part of their communities

Our universities are home to galleries, museums and sports facilities for students, staff, local schools and the public to enjoy.

Glasgow University’s Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery is home to one of the largest collections outside the National Museums. The Glasgow School of Art is home to the world-famous Mackintosh building which operates as a museum and gallery as well as living art school. Aberdeen University’s new library is a resource for the local community and regularly hosts school visits so pupils can benefit from its collections.

The University of Stirling is designated as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence. Its sports centre helps to prepares athletes for Olympic and Commonwealth competition. The Aberdeen Sports Village is a partnership between the University, the City Council and sportscotland to make world-class sports facilities available to everyone in the community.

It's thought that close to one-third of students volunteer in their local community and put something back to the area where they live and study.

10. The sector's diversity is one of its greatest strengths

Scotland’s higher education sector includes some of the oldest universities in the world to some of the newest. Each university is a product of their particular history and disciplinary mix, their different academic and student communities and their location. Some institutions offer a broad-based education, others are renowned for their specialism. Amongst our 19 members, we have institutions that are pioneers in distance and blended learning using the latest technologies to make learning accessible to all.

The 19 institutions offer a huge breadth and depth of educational opportunities, including over 4,500 courses in 150 subject groups from physics with nuclear technology to fashion design. The distinctiveness of each institution also means that each institution brings a different portfolio of research and teaching to a particular subject.

Each universities' mission is based on their strengths. This allows them to take advantage of new opportunities, encourages innovative approaches, new models of working and new partnerships at home and abroad.

Find out more about any one of our 19 amazing higher education institutions.