What’s in it for you?
At university you can:
- study something you really enjoy
- learn new skills
- improve your career prospects
- qualify for specific careers
- broaden the range of careers you have access to, including postgraduate courses
- broaden your horizons by meeting new people and seeing new places
- have fun – it’s not all work and no play!
What can you learn?
Universities and other higher education institutions (HEIs) in Scotland offer thousands of courses in different subjects, from accountancy to zoology. So you’ll have to do a lot of careful research if you’re going to make the right choice.
Courses are both vocational (job related) and non-vocational (interest related).
You don’t have to have a definite career in mind, and many graduates enter jobs open to those with a degree in any subject.
And it’s not just degrees! Higher education includes qualifications such as:
- Higher National Certificates (HNCs)
- Certificates in Higher Education (CertHEs)
- Higher National Diplomas (HNDs)
- Diplomas in Higher Education (DipHEs).
You'll find more information on Scottish qualifications, and courses at universities and colleges throughout Scotland in our Learning Zone. If you want to look at courses elsewhere in the UK, look at the UCAS site at www.ucas.com
What qualifications do you need to get in?
You will normally need at least:
- three Highers for entry onto a degree (but for some courses five Highers are essential)
- one to three Highers for entry onto HNDs and DipHEs
- one to two Highers for entry onto HNCs and CertHEs.
You will usually also need extra Standard grades.
Always check that you will have any specific subjects that are needed, and what the ‘going rate’ for entry will be. Some courses, for example, degree courses in veterinary medicine, need much more than the minimum!
For entry to HNC or CertHE, a relevant National Certificate or equivalent award is acceptable.
If you are an adult who left school with few or no formal qualifications, or who has not been in education for some time, you could get into higher education courses, including HNDs and degrees, by completing a one-year full time Access course or programme. A wide range of Access courses is offered by colleges of further education and universities throughout Scotland.
Some things to think about before you apply!
- Are you prepared to study full time for between one and five years?
- What sort of university or college do you want to study at? Town or country? Big or small?
- Would you like to study a subject you have already taken at school or college, or would you like to take something completely new?
- Do you want to do a course that qualifies you for a particular career area (such as architecture or dentistry), or would you prefer to do a more general course (such as arts, social sciences or business studies)?
- If you have a particular career in mind, will the course you are considering get you into it?
- Will you have the qualifications, the subjects and the grades you’ll need to get in?
- Do you want to move away or stay at home to study?
- Have you found out everything you can about the universities and the courses you are thinking of applying to?
- Have you got another plan in case you don’t get into your first choice of course or university?
- What about the money? Are you going to have to work part time to make ends meet or will a student loan be enough?
- A combination of study and work experience is possible on sandwich degrees (and some other courses). Is this an option in the courses you are considering?
- Sponsorships and scholarships – are these available for the type of course you have in mind?
At some point you might want to go on to a higher level of study. So it’s important that you check carefully what progression opportunities your current choice of course might give you.
Will institutions offering more advanced courses recognise your qualification or give you any exemptions or credit?
You may have the chance to progress into higher level courses with your qualification, but you may not automatically get into them. Severe limits on funding make it very important to plan your progression route carefully.
What is a franchised course?
This means that one institution runs a course, or part of a course, and another approves it, such as when a college runs the first year of a university degree programme.
It usually means that students have opportunities for progression within both institutions but it is worth checking to make sure.
What is an articulated course?
This is where an institution accepts a specific course (at a specific level) from another institution as an entry qualification for one of their courses (also at a specific level).
A university might accept a specific HNC from a specific college as a suitable qualification for entry into the second year of a relevant degree programme, or accept a specific HND for entry to the third year of the degree.
Check with both institutions beforehand whether the course you plan to do will guarantee you a place on the more advanced course at the other institution.
Many universities offer potential students the chance to attend a summer school. Generally, these opportunities are aimed at those who have already applied and been conditionally accepted but who are likely to fall short of meeting the necessary entry standard for a good reason, or who would benefit from a refresher course before beginning their studies.
As well as academic study, summer schools give training in study skills and provide an introduction to university life. We advise you to contact the institutions you choose to discuss what might be available.
Where can you get information about student finance?
Please read the yearly publication ‘Student Support Information Guide’ produced by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for more information on finance for higher education (HNC, CertHE, HND, DipHE and degree courses), including the Student Loans Scheme. Also look at our articles on 'Funding your studies'.
How do you apply?
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) acts on behalf of all UK universities (except the Open University) and all higher education institutions. The UCAS Directory lists all of the universities and colleges that take part in the UCAS system.
You will apply online, using the online UCAS service Apply. You can access this secure application system through the UCAS website, www.ucas.com.
If you want to apply for more than one course in 2013, the application fee is £23. You can apply for up to five courses. You can list the courses in any order as Apply will put them in alphabetical order. If you intend to apply for one course only, the fee is £12. We would advise against applying for only one course unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Applications for 2013 entry should reach UCAS between mid-September 2012 and 15 January 2013, with the following two exceptions.
If you are applying to Oxford or Cambridge, (you cannot apply to Oxford and Cambridge), you must apply by 15 October 2012.
If you are applying for medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or veterinary science, you must apply by 15 October 2012. You can only choose up to four medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or veterinary science courses. You can use the other choice for another subject.