Studying in Scotland: Scotland, the northernmost nation in the United Kingdom, is a favoured destination for international students due to its renowned universities, vibrant student communities, and high quality of life. However, studying in Scotland can be costly, necessitating early financial planning. This guide provides an in-depth overview of tuition fees at Scottish universities.
Who is Required to Pay Tuition Fees in Scotland?
All students must pay tuition to enroll in a Scottish university, with one notable exception, which we’ll discuss shortly. The fee amount varies based on the fee status and your place of origin:
- Home and EU Students: Scottish students and students from EU countries, often referred to as “Home” students, generally enjoy the lowest tuition fees for undergraduate degrees, which are commonly covered by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).
- Rest of UK (RUK) Students: Students hailing from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, categorized as “Rest of UK” or “RUK” students, must pay higher fees for undergraduate programs, typically on par with Home students for postgraduate degrees.
- International Students: Students from countries outside the UK and EU fall into the “International” student category and usually face higher tuition fees.
Is It Possible to Study Tuition-Free in Scotland?
Indeed, you can pursue studies in Scotland for free, but only under specific circumstances: If you are a UK citizen already residing in Scotland or a citizen of another EU country, and you are pursuing your first undergraduate degree (Bachelor’s or Scottish undergraduate Master’s degree), your tuition fees will be covered by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).
However, this exemption does not apply to students from England, Wales, or Northern Ireland (RUK) who intend to move to Scotland for their university studies, nor does it extend to international students from outside the European Union.
Students aiming to pursue postgraduate programs typically incur tuition fees. The exact amount varies based on the university, program, and fee status, with EU students usually paying less than their non-EU international counterparts. For postgraduate studies, Scottish universities do not differentiate between Scottish and RUK students.
What Are the Costs of Studying in Scotland?
The cost of your university education primarily hinges on your fee status (whether you are a “Home,” “RUK,” or “International” student) and the academic level at which you plan to study. While specific amounts may vary, the following table provides a general overview of typical tuition fees for studying in Scotland:
|Fee Status||Undergraduate Fees||Postgraduate Fees|
|Home||£1,820 (usually covered by SAAS)||£5,000 – £15,000|
|Rest of UK||Usually £9,250 for the first three years||£5,000 – £15,000|
|International||£10,000 – £26,000||£15,000 – £30,000|
These figures represent approximate ranges, and individual courses may have lower or higher costs. Generally, the more prestigious and competitive the university, the higher the tuition fees. For example, expect the University of Edinburgh or Glasgow to have higher tuition costs than other Scottish institutions.
Scholarships for International Students
Securing a scholarship can significantly ease the financial burden of studying in Scotland, particularly for international students facing higher tuition fees. One prominent scholarship program to explore is the Saltire Scholarships, generously sponsored by the Scottish Government.
These scholarships are typically available to USA, Canada, India, Pakistan, Japan, or China students who wish to pursue a Master’s degree in specific focus subjects. For detailed information, visit the program’s official website.
Tuition Fee Payment Schedule
The timing and specifics of tuition fee payments vary among institutions. In most cases, once you receive an offer of admission, you will need to complete the university’s registration process. During registration, you must usually make an initial payment of as much as 50% of the tuition fees. Many universities allow the remaining costs to be paid in multiple installments throughout your academic program.
For international (non-EU) students, the timing of payment to the university is less crucial than when you submit your application for the UK study visa (Tier 4 visa). When applying for this visa, you must meet financial requirements, demonstrating that you have sufficient funds to cover the first year of your study program (or the entire program if it is shorter), as well as living expenses and accommodation costs for up to 9 months (or the duration of your program if it’s faster), at a rate of £1,015 per month.
Brexit’s Impact on Tuition Fees
Brexit, the process by which the United Kingdom, including Scotland, withdrew from the European Union (EU) on January 31, 2020, could alter tuition fee structures. Historically, tuition fees at British universities differed between “home” students (including EU students) and “international” students, with EU students enjoying lower fees.
As a part of Brexit, it is conceivable that EU students may be categorized as international students in the future, resulting in higher tuition fees than their British counterparts. However, there is reassuring news: In April 2019, the Scottish government confirmed that EU students commencing their studies up to the academic year 2020/21 would continue to pay the same tuition fees as Scottish students throughout their course. There has been no announcement regarding 2021/22 and beyond.
Application Fees at Scottish Universities
Some Scottish universities impose application fees when you apply for a program, which can reach as high as £50. These fees are typically non-refundable, meaning you won’t receive a refund if your application is rejected or if you decline an offer. Therefore, it’s advisable to carefully assess your chances of acceptance when a university charges an application fee. (Note: The university application fee should not be confused with the visa application fee for non-European students, as they are separate fees.)
Cost of Living and studying in Scotland
Although studying in Scotland is not without costs, it is generally more affordable than many other regions of the UK, especially London. Cities like Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen are often recognized as some of the most budget-friendly student cities in the UK. Additionally, students can take advantage of special discounts at various shops, restaurants, and even pubs. Depending on your lifestyle choices, it is possible to manage with monthly expenses ranging from £700 to £800, including accommodation.
For international students, regardless of the actual cost of living, it is essential to demonstrate financial readiness, with £1,015 per month required for up to 9 months when applying for the UK Tier 4 student visa.
Top Universities in Scotland
Scotland boasts world-renowned universities known for cutting-edge research and high-quality education. These institutions consistently rank highly in global assessments. Some of the top universities in Scotland include the University of Edinburgh, the University of Glasgow, the University of St Andrews, and the University of Aberdeen. These universities are among the best in the UK and frequently feature in the top 200 universities globally.
Application Deadlines in Scotland
Application deadlines in Scotland vary depending on the academic level you plan to pursue:
- Dentistry, Medicine, or Veterinary Medicine: Apply by 15th October (the year before) for courses starting in autumn.
- UK or EU Students: Apply by 15th January.
- Students from outside the EU: Apply by 30th June.
- Deadlines for Master’s programs at Scottish universities vary; some programs may not have fixed deadlines. Generally, it is advisable to apply as early as possible, typically no later than the spring if you intend to start your studies in the autumn.
Note that these dates can change, so always refer to the official university websites for the most up-to-date information.
Working While Studying in Scotland
While focusing on your studies is essential, the cost of living in Scotland can be high, making part-time work a valuable option to gain work experience and support your expenses. Work permissions vary based on your visa status:
- British or EU citizens typically face no specific work restrictions.
- International students studying in Scotland on a Tier 4 visa can usually work up to 20 hours per week, provided they have a formal employment agreement.
Remember that your primary focus should be on your academic endeavours, and work should complement your studies rather than detract from them.
Cheapest Universities For Studying in Scotland
Scotland is a beautiful country with a rich history and many historical sites. It also has some of the best and cheapest universities in Europe. If studying in Scotland is what you want, many affordable universities offer low tuition fees for international students.
University of Dundee (UoD)
Tuition fees start from £1,820 and £9,250 per year for international and domestic tuition fees, respectively. The university is a public research university located in the city and Royal Burgh of Dundee on the east coast of the central Lowlands of Scotland.
It was established in 1881 as an offshoot of what is now known as the University of St Andrews, which has existed since 1413.
University of the West of Scotland
Tuition fees at the University of the West of Scotland start from £1,820 and £9,250 per year for international students, and domestic tuition fees start from £1,520 and £6,750 per year. The tuition fee rate is calculated based on the number of credits an international student takes.
Glasgow Caledonian University(GCU)
Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) is a public university in Glasgow, Scotland. The university was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Higher and Further Education Prize in 2006. Glasgow Caledonian University, sometimes known as GCU, Caley, or Caledonian, is a public university centred in Glasgow, Scotland.
After the Queen’s College merger in Glasgow and the Glasgow Polytechnic, this institution opened its doors for the first time in 1993. Glasgow Caledonian University is one of the least costly colleges in Scotland for international students, with annual tuition starting at under £13,000 ($17,000).
The institution has developed into one of the largest universities in Scotland, with around 30,000 students on campus at any time. It offers undergraduate degrees in arts and humanities, medicine, dentistry, engineering, science & technology, business management & law from its main campus at Gilmorehill, which is close to Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum on Kelvin Walkway near Kelvingrove Park, which is also known as “The People’s Park”.
Tuition fees: Starts from £13,000 and £14,000 per year for Undergraduate and Graduate Tuition fees.
Queen Margaret University Edinburgh (QMUL)
Queen Margaret University (QMUL) is a public research university in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was ranked in the top 100 universities in the world by Times Higher Education World University Ranking 2019 and has been awarded “The Most International” university title by The Complete University Guide 2019.
QMUL offers over 50 undergraduate courses, emphasizing science, engineering and mathematics; it also has postgraduate programmes, including MScs in Biology, Chemistry or Mathematics.
The university’s research centres include the Centre for Biotechnology and Biofuels Research, Institute for Cardiovascular Science, School of Molecular Biosciences and Clinical Pharmacology, Scottish Centre for Visual Neuroscience & Vision Science Research Group, School of Engineering & Built Environment (SEBE); School of Psychology & Behavioural Sciences (SPS&BH).
Tuition fees: Starts from £7,000 and £15,000 per year for undergraduate and graduate tuition fees.
Tuition fees: Start from £14,000 and £15,000 per year for undergraduate and graduate tuition fees. Abertay University is a public university located in Dundee. It was established as the University College of Dundee in 1967 and became an independent institution 15 years later when it merged with St Andrews College to become Abertay University.
The main campus is located on Dundee’s Shandon Hill Campus, which accommodates 1,200 students. There are also five other campuses across Scotland, including one in Strathclyde near Glasgow city centre (1 mile away), two in Edinburgh (30 miles apart) and one each at West Lothian near Edinburgh or Livingston in West Lothian County.
Edinburgh Napier University
Edinburgh Napier University is a university located in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland. Tuition fees: Start from £14,000 and £16,000 for Undergraduate and Graduate Tuition Fees. Most students at EGU come from outside Scotland and within it; many are international students who have been accepted into the programme on their own merit.
However, some local students choose to study here because they see it as an opportunity to improve their English language skills and learn about other cultures through academic research projects and community outreach programs.
University of Aberdeen
The University of Aberdeen (UoAB) is a public research university in Aberdeen, Scotland. It is one of three universities in the city; alongside Robert Gordon University and Heriot-Watt University, it forms the Carnegie Universities.
This article will focus on tuition fees at the University of Aberdeen: Tuition fees start from 9250 GBP to 22800 GBP per year for International students and 1,820 GBP for domestic students, respectively.
University of Strathclyde
The University of Strathclyde is a public university based in Glasgow, Scotland. It has been ranked 1st in the UK for student satisfaction by The Guardian University Guide 2018 and was named University of the Year 2016/17 by Times Higher Education (THE).
The university offers over 170 academic courses across five schools: Arts & Social Sciences; Business & Law; Creative Industries; Health Sciences; Science & Engineering.
Tuition fees start from £15,000 per year if you’re applying to study medicine or dentistry at the undergraduate level. Graduate tuition fees start at just over £12k per year for those who want to study medicine or dentistry on an honours pathway, which includes postgraduate research opportunities within these subjects (the cost will depend on your chosen degree course).
Robert Gordon University Aberdeen (RGU)
Tuition fees for international students are £4,640 – 17,150 and £1,820 – 6,750 per year for Scottish-qualified degrees. For domestic students, the tuition fee is £1,620 per year (Domestic). For example, if you are studying medicine at RGU in Aberdeen and pay £10k in tuition fees, then your monthly payments will be:
University of Stirling
The University of Stirling is a public research university in Stirling, Scotland. It was established in 2005 and currently has over 5,500 students enrolled. The tuition fees for international students at the University of Stirling are similar to those offered by other universities in Scotland. These include undergraduate courses starting from £16,000 per year or graduate courses starting from £27,000 per year. Domestic students pay approximately £10,200 per annum (2018/19).
The average living cost for students living away from home can be estimated at £20-30k depending on location; this includes rent and food costs as well as transportation expenses – although many people will spend less than this amount when renting an apartment or house close enough to campus so that they don’t have too much trouble getting around town during breaks between classes!
University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh is a public research university in Edinburgh, Scotland. The university has 17 schools and colleges, including the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, the oldest medical school in Scotland.
Tuition fees: Start from £8,820 and £32,100 for Domestic and International Bachelor’s Tuition Fee. The University campus is spread across two main campuses at Holyrood Park and George Square; these are connected by a pedestrian bridge across Ferry Road, which runs one of three major bus routes serving the city center.
The main campus also contains several buildings belonging to The School For Scottish Law (close to where it used to be located before moving out into Dean Village) and most departments that teach English Literature or Creative Writing courses at the undergraduate level.
How Expensive Are Tuition Fees at Scottish Universities?
The tuition fees at Scottish universities vary by university and country. For example, a basic-level undergraduate course at the University of Edinburgh will cost £8,000 per annum (£10,000 for international students), while a master’s degree in public health at the University of Aberdeen is priced at £9,500 per annum (£12,000 for international students).
The amount you pay depends on the university and the type of course you are applying for. If they do not have sufficient financial resources to cover your tuition costs, applying for bursaries or scholarships may be necessary.
If you plan on studying in Scotland, be sure to research all of your options. The best way to ensure that you get the most out of your education is by comparing tuition fees and costs with other universities worldwide.