What is the difference between studying in Scotland and England?

The United Kingdom consists of four nations: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Although there is a central government in London, each nation has a devolved government which takes care of matters which are devolved to each administration by the UK government, this includes education. Therefore, the higher education systems of all the four nations are different from each other, with Scotland being the most different from the rest of the three nations.

This blog will discuss the ways in which the Scottish higher education system (at undergraduate-level) differs from that of England, and what this means if you are considering studying in Scotland. Overall, the difference in the systems can be categorised into the following: length of courses & course structure; range and quality of universities; cost; and life. Let’s dig deeper into each one.

Length of courses & course structure

In Scotland, undergraduate courses are 4 years long unlike in the rest of the UK where the average course length is 3 years. The Scottish higher education system is designed to be more flexible and inclusive in nature, whereas the English system takes a deeper approach to learning. In England, students often decide their specialisation from the beginning of their course, whereas in Scotland there is more flexibility to experiment by taking on different modules from different subject areas in the 1st and 2nd years and then deciding upon your specialisation in year 3.

In England, students tend to stick to modules which directly relate to their chosen subject degree and it’s harder to switch degrees (in many cases students may need to start their degree all over again in order to switch). It can be therefore argued that the Scottish system provides broader learning and more varied knowledge and experience, whereas the English system focuses more on deep learning of a specific subject.

Range and quality of universities

All four nations of the UK have world class universities that rank highly in the world e.g., the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow in Scotland, and Oxford and Cambridge (Oxbridge) in England. However, England being the biggest and most populous nation, naturally it has a much higher number of universities. So, you may find you have a wider range of options in your chosen subject niche in England. Having said this, Scottish universities are known for many niches: ‘oil and gas engineering’, and ‘maritime’ subjects, to name a couple.

Which universities are in Scotland?

Scotland is home to 15 universities spread across the mainland and the islands. They range from relatively large ones such as the University of Glasgow and University of Edinburgh to smaller ones such as the University of Abertay. Below is a list of all the universities in Scotland.

University of Abertay

Edinburgh Napier University

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU)

Heriot-Watt University

Queen Margaret University

Robert Gordon University

University of Aberdeen

University of Dundee

University of Edinburgh

University of Glasgow

University of Highlands and Islands

University of St Andrews

University of Stirling

University of Strathclyde

University of the West of Scotland


There are no standard rates of tuition for international students studying in any of the four nations, so they vary with each university. However, as a general rule, expect to pay tuition fees of anywhere between £10K-£26K per year. Of course, the extra year of study at undergraduate-level in Scotland can make a significant difference in overall tuition fee costs. In terms of living costs, Scotland is generally considered cheaper than England. Nevertheless, the capitals of both nations are expensive, with London ranked most expensive to live in the whole of the UK. You may find Edinburgh is more expensive to live in than the north of England. But many areas of Scotland are relatively affordable.


England and Scotland have had historically different cultures that developed separately throughout history. This means that annual celebrations and bank holidays sometimes differ. Accents and dialects also vary to the point that sometimes it’s hard for people to understand each other from the different nations. Also, the weather can vary. Generally, the further north you go in the UK, the colder it gets. Scotland is generally considered to be the coldest in the UK!

After reading this piece you may wonder which nation is the best for me. It really depends on your circumstances and what you want to study e.g., as mentioned earlier, there are more universities and therefore more study options in England. Nevertheless, Scotland will also provide a depth of options and world-class universities, affordable living costs and colder weather!

If you are considering studying at a university in Scotland, get in touch with our friendly team!

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Haider Shah
Haider is a graduate in business management and has a strong interest in written content creation
Published on 11 January 2022
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