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.

Four Scottish universities are ranked in the world’s top 200 according to the 2018 Times Higher Education rankings. This means four of Scotland’s institutions are amongst the top one per cent of world’s universities. The universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and Aberdeen feature in the top 200. In the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, we are also home to the third best performing arts institute in the world.

The Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings 2019 placed four Scottish universities in the world’s top 50 for social and economic impact. The University of Dundee, the University of Aberdeen, Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Strathclyde all featured on the list for their contribution to important global challenges such as sustainability, inequality and climate change.

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 over a decade.

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 have increased the number of entrants from Scotland’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods significantly over the past 10 years. Currently, 14.6% of Scottish entrants to undergraduate degrees are from the 20% most deprived areas of Scotland. We are committed to building on this progress. In response to the Commission for Widening Access, we are undertaking work on university admissions, articulation routes and bridging programmes, as outlined in our action plan Working to Widen Access.

As well as running a wide range of outreach activities for pupils, parents and teachers throughout school, aimed at raising attainment and aspiration, Scotland’s universities have close partnerships with colleges, and we recently launched a new joint forum to continue to build on these links. We believe in lifelong learning and put no age limit on access – a third of students admitted to Scottish universities are aged 21 or over.

The Commissioner for Fair Access has acknowledged that targets to increase entrants from Scotland’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods are amongst the most ambitious in the world. Our universities have introduced ‘contextual admissions’ – where the socio-economic background of an applicant is taken into account during the admissions process – because the evidence demonstrates that students from disadvantaged backgrounds can thrive at university and that exam results are only one way to assess potential.

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. The University of Dundee’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.

6. Our universities are innovative and entrepreneurial

Universities are a key part of Scotland’s innovation landscape and have an important role in supporting businesses and others to innovate. In 2016/17 Scottish HEIs worked with over 22,000 organisations in Scotland to help them to innovate.

Scotland’s universities produce more formal 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 2016/17.

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 a median average of £23,500. This is £500 more than the comparable figure for English students and £1,500 above median earnings for those who attended university in Northern Ireland or Wales.

84% of Scotland’s employers say graduates from our universities are well-prepared or very well-prepared for work.

The vast majority of Scottish employers are satisfied with how well graduates are prepared when they leave university. In part, that’s because employers play a crucial role in helping to develop the courses we offer. We know that this joint working produces great successes: we have the best figures in the UK for leavers going straight into a graduate job, while the number of university student start-ups increased by more than a quarter in a two year period.

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. 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 sport scotland 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.