Scotland - the northernmost country within the United Kingdom - is a popular destination for international students: Many world-class universities, vibrant student communities and great quality of life. However, studying in Scotland can be expensive - so it’s important that you prepare early. Read our guide to learn all about about tuition fees at Scottish universities:
Generally, all students have to pay fees to study at a university in Scotland (with one exception - more on that below). The amount depends on the fee status, and it makes a difference where you are from:
Yes, you can study in Scotland tuition-free, but only in one special case: If you are a UK citizen already resident in Scotland, or a citizen of another EU country, and you are studying for your first undergraduate degree (meaning a Bachelor’s degree or a Scottish undergraduate Master’s degree) then there are no direct tuition fees. Instead, your 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 (“rest of UK” or “RUK”) who would only move to Scotland for university, and it also does not apply to students from outside the European Union (“international students”).
Students who want to pursue a postgraduate programme usually always have to pay tuition fees. The amount depends on the university and programme as well as the fee status; EU students usually pay less than non-EU international students. For postgraduate programmes, Scottish universities do not differentiate between Scottish and RUK students.
The cost of your university education mostly depends on your fee status (meaning whether you’re a “home”, “RUK” or “international” student) and at what level you plan to study. The amounts vary, but the following table gives you a rough overview of the typical tuition fees in Scotland:
|Fee status||Undergraduate fees||Postgraduate fees|
|Home||1,820 GBP (but covered by SAAS in almost all cases)||5,000 - 15,000 GBP|
|Rest of UK (RUK)||usually 9,250 GBP||5,000 - 15,000 GBP|
|International||10,000 GBP - 26,000 GBP||15,000 - 30,000 GBP|
These are just general ranges - there may be courses that are cheaper or more expensive. As a rule of thumb, the more prestigious the university is, and the more difficult to get into, the higher the tuition cost; so for example, expect the University of Edinburgh or the University of Glasgow to be more expensive than other Scottish universities.
A scholarship is a great way to finance your studies in Scotland, especially if you are an international student and have to cover higher tuition costs.
One popular scholarship programme are the Saltire Scholarships sponsored by the Scottish Government. They are generally open to students from the USA, Canada, India, Pakistan, Japan or China who want to pursue a Masters degree in one of a set of focus subjects. Check out the website for more details.
The payment details and timing differ from institution to institution, but generally, once you have an offer, you need to register (i.e. enrol) with the university; and at registration, you are then asked to already pay a percentage of the tuition fees, sometimes up to 50%. In many cases, you can then pay the remainder of the fees spread out over multiple instalments during your studies.
However, if you are an international (non-EU) student, when you make the payment to the university is less relevant for you than when you submit the application for the UK study visa. When applying for the UK student visa (the Tier 4 visa), you need to meet the financial requirements: You need to prove that you have the funds to pay for the first year of your study programme (or if it is shorter than a year, for the whole programme), and to cover your cost of living and accommodation for up to 9 months (or the length of your programme if it is shorter), at an amount of 1,015 GBP per month.
The United Kingdom - of which Scotland is a part - is leaving the European Union (EU) on 31 October 2019, and this process is called “Brexit”. The tuition fees at British universities usually differ between “home” students and “international” students; and students from the EU have so far been treated the same as “home” students, meaning lower tuition fees.
As part of Brexit, it is possible that students from the EU would in the future be treated like other international students and therefore have to pay higher fees than their British peers.
However, there are good news: In April 2019, the Scottish government confirmed that students from the EU who start their studies up until the academic year 2020/21 would still pay the same as Scottish students for the whole duration of their course. There has not yet been an announcement for 2021/22 or thereafter.
Read more: What does Brexit mean for international students in the UK?
Some Scottish universities charge application fees when you apply to a programme. They can be as high as 50 pounds and are usually non-refundable, meaning you will not get the money back if you get rejected or decline an offer. Therefore, if a university charges an application fee, consider carefully if you think your chances of acceptance are good enough. (Note: The university application fee is not to be confused with the visa application fee for non-European students, which is separate.)
Although studying in Scotland certainly isn’t cheap per se, it is cheaper than many other parts of the UK and certainly cheaper than London. In fact, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen are often found to be among the cheapest student cities in the UK. And you can make the most of special student deals at many shops, restaurants and even pubs. Depending on how luxurious you want to live, it is possible to get by on as little as 700 or 800 pounds per month, including accommodation.
Regardless of the actual cost of living, if you are an international student you will need to prove that you have 1,015 GBP per month for up to 9 months when you apply for the UK Tier 4 student visa.
Scotland is well-known for its world-leading universities that conduct cutting-edge research and offer high-quality education. Looking at global rankings, you will regularly find Scottish universities high up. The University of Edinburgh, the University of Glasgow, the University of St Andrews, and the University of Aberdeen are all among the top unis in the UK and also the top 200 in the world.
The application deadlines to study at university in Scotland depend on the level at which you plan to study:
If you plan to pursue an undergraduate degree, then the UCAS deadlines are relevant for you. To start your studies in autumn, you need to apply by:
The deadlines for Masters programmes at Scottish universities vary and sometimes there is no fixed deadline, but rather a maximum number of places in a course. Therefore it is recommended to apply as early as possible, usually no later than spring if you want to start your studies in autumn.
Please note that the above dates may vary, so always check the course information on the official universities’ websites.
In an ideal world, you could study full-time and concentrate on learning as much as possible during your time at uni. But student life in Scotland can be expensive, and a student job can also be valuable to gain some work experience before you graduate.
If you study in Scotland as an international student on a Tier 4 visa, you can normally work for up to 20 hours a week, as long as you are properly employed via a written agreement.
This article was last updated on 12 August 2019.