Scotland VS Rest of UK: What You Need to Know

By Karen Lee

(Published on 18 June 2021)

When exploring the higher education options in the United Kingdom (UK) I noticed one thing that many students have in common: the confusion about the terms UK, Great Britain and England. And it is important that we clear this before talking about Scotland. So here is a short geography class:

The United Kingdom (UK) refers to the political union between four countries, namely England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island, while Great Britain is the collective name for England, Scotland and Wales (no Northern Ireland).

So yes, England and Scotland are independent countries of the UK in their own rights. Most universities that we are familiar with are in England (e.g. Oxbridge, London universities, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool etc). Scotland, the northern part of the UK, has also captured many young hearts. I am sure these Scottish universities would not be a stranger to you: Edinburgh (the capital city of Scotland), St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee. In fact, the University of St Andrews has been ranked 1st in Scotland and 3rd in the UK* (with a narrow gap on Oxbridge) by virtue of its high scores for student satisfaction and experience, graduate employment and the quality of its academic programmes.

The utmost benefit of studying in Scotland

If I have to describe the beauty of studying in Scotland in one word, it will be “flexibility”.

Unlike most undergraduate degrees elsewhere in the UK, Scottish universities offer more freedom to explore different subjects. A typical Scottish degree will allow you to begin with a few subjects in your chosen field, and you will have the option later to continue with your studies or change to another degree (subject to availability).

On the contrary, most other degrees in the UK would require you to stick to your chosen degree throughout. It might be possible to switch subjects in your first term, but it would be very hard to change course or transfer to another university if you change your mind later – you’ll have to start again from first year in your new endeavour.

But you should also know that…

Most Scottish undergraduate degrees last 4 years, compared to a 3-year degree in the rest of the UK. So you should factor in the length of your expected graduation and the difference in total tuition fee.

Also, the Scottish degree naming convention is different – many of the undergraduate degrees are named “masters” but not “bachelors”. For instance, most arts and humanities degrees are awarded as MA but in reality it is still a conventional undergraduate degree, not equivalent to a postgraduate degree in the rest of the UK.

*Source: The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021

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