Scotland has more world-class universities per head of population than anywhere else in the world. Three key features of higher education in Scotland, which makes it a destination of choice, include the quality of education underpinned by world-class research, the tremendous breadth of learning on offer, and a focus on employability.
Scotland has four universities in the world’s top 200. Around the world, Scotland’s universities are synonymous with excellence. The quality of teaching in Scotland’s universities is recognized as world class. A highly renowned and rigorous quality-enhancement framework underpins this, as overseen by the Quality Assurance Agency.
A particular feature of Scotland’s quality assurance mechanisms is a strong element of student participation in the review process, and a national programme of enhancement, aimed at developing and sharing good practice. This model is now being mirrored in universities across Europe.
All degree programmes have a strong theoretical underpinning and many have a strong vocational element, and both learning and teaching take place in close association with advanced research and scholarship activity.
Every university undertakes some research deemed to be of world-leading quality, meaning that students have the potential to be taught in an environment shared by academics that are pushing the frontiers of their fields and gaining recognition globally. Researchers in Scotland’s universities are responsible for many world-changing discoveries and innovations including the MRI scanner, development of keyhole surgery, and the theory that first posited the existence of the Higgs Boson particle.
In the 2013 National Student Survey, which records the satisfaction levels of final-year undergraduate students with their learning experience, Scotland’s universities were judged to have the highest overall satisfaction ratings in the UK, with 86%.
Employability is embedded as a strong focus within the curricula in Scotland. This commitment returns dividends, as Scotland’s universities are proud to boast the highest rate of positive designations in the United Kingdom. Nine out of every ten graduates go on to work or further study within six months of graduation.
Graduates from Scotland’s universities also have the highest starting salaries in the UK. Each institution also has a set of graduate attributes, which they look to develop in every student irrespective of their course or discipline studied. Such attributes, which are in high-demand from employers across the globe, include the capacity to think independently, to exercise judgement and initiative, the cultivation of team-working and leadership skills, and the application of evidence-based argument.
Universities regularly engage with employers, professional bodies, and others in the design, development, and accreditation of the undergraduate and postgraduate courses they offer. At last count, universities in Scotland worked with over 115 professional bodies, which can give employers additional reassurance that graduates emerge from university work-ready.
In addition to the curricula content, Scotland’s universities have a network of professional careers staff to offer support and guidance to their students, from enrolment to graduation – and beyond.
International students (those not from EU countries) are eligible to work for up to 20 hours per week for the duration of their studies. Post-study work opportunities are also available for international graduates who meet certain criteria of the UK Borders Agency
Further information is available on the UK Visas and Immigration website, www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration.
Breadth of study
Scotland’s university sector is able to offer over 4,500 courses in more than 150 subject groupings at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Scotland’s four-year undergraduate degree structure is sometimes referred to as the ‘gold standard’ of university education. It follows a long-established European tradition, which is emulated by a range of nationals across the world.
The four-year undergraduate degree model has been copied by many countries including the United States and most recently Hong Kong. No other country within the UK offers this degree structure as standard.
Advantages of the four-year undergraduate degree include: Enhanced flexibility in subject choice, which allows students to experience new subjects without committing to them longer-term; the opportunity for students to mature academically, honing their intellectual skills, and personally before committing to a specialism; academic breath, which is valuable in terms of academic development and is attractive to employers; and the opportunity for specialization in later years of the undergraduate degree but from a broader base, which provides stronger academic foundations for later study.
The framework of the four-year degree is fully compatible with the Bologna Process, which supports the increased mobility and compatibility of degree programmes across the European Union. Each university develops its own curricula and method of assessment within the parameters of the academic infrastructure, drawing on the strengths and expertise of its academic staff. This means that no two degree courses are exactly the same. This diversity is one of the great strengths of the sector in Scotland.