The Scottish Higher Education
an overview of key elements
November 2012
Dr. Christine Laennec, Centre for
Learning & Teaching
We will look at:
Higher Education Institutions in Scotland
Nature of Scottish undergraduate degrees
Funding (briefly!)
Qualifications students may arrive with
Scottish Qualifications Framework
Quality Assurance
Implications for teaching staff at Aberdeen
Higher Education Institutions in
• 20 HEIs:
– “ancients”: Edinburgh (1582), St. Andrews (1413),
Glasgow (1451), Aberdeen (1495)
– 1960s: Dundee, Strathclyde, Heriot-Watt, Stirling
– “post-1992”: Glasgow Caledonian, Napier, Queen
Margaret, Robert Gordon University, etc.
– 2010: University of the Highlands & Islands
• Future?
Scottish undergraduate degrees
• 4-year degree (generally)
– 3-year degree is also possible (“Ordinary Degree”)
– Some programmes, e.g. languages, may take 5 years
• In arts & humanities, M.A. is the first degree (no
B.A.). Called an Honours Degree (M.A. Hons.)
• The “extra year” is at Level 1
• Levels 1 & 2: wider breadth of study
– “teaching marks”
• Levels 3 & 4: Honours levels
– Marks count towards eventual degree classification
(1st; 2i; 2ii; 3rd)
How is HE funded in Scotland?
• Responsibility for education is devolved to the Scottish
• Funding body: Scottish Funding Council
– SFC distributes more than £1.5 billion to Higher Education
and Further Education (FE)
– Main teaching grant for Aberdeen in 2012-2013: 45.4M (cf.
Glasgow, 83.7M)*
– Research funding is less than teaching grant; calculated on
the results of the Research Excellence Framework exercise
(every 7 years)
• As of 2012, the Main Teaching Grant only covers students from
Scotland and the EU. Rest of UK [RUK] students and
international students pay tuition fees.
*Scottish Funding Council press release, 20 December 2011, Table 2
[, consulted 23 October 2012].
What do students pay to study at the
University of Aberdeen?
• Scottish students: free (Scottish government
pays £1,820 annual fee)
• Rest of UK [RUK] students: £9,000 / year, max
• EU students: free
– Legal challenge to this?
• International students (non-EU):
£10,500 - £13,500/year; £24,000/year for
What kinds of qualifications do
students arrive with?
• Highers / Advanced Highers (Scottish
• A-levels (RUK) – encouraged to start at Level 2
• International Baccalaureate
• HNC/HND (earned at College) – often go
directly into Level 2
• Access Summer School (many different
backgrounds, incl. mature students)
Quality Assurance
• Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education
(QAA) is tasked with ensuring that HEIs deliver
appropriate standards.
• Quality Enhancement Framework:
– Enhancement Themes
• 8 have been completed since 2003
• Currently “Developing & Supporting the Curriculum,” 20112014
– Enhancement-Led Institutional Review (ELIR, every 4
years. Must be prepared by autumn 2013; visit 2014)
– Internal Teaching Reviews
And also…
• Approximately 50% of school leavers in Scotland go on to
do further or higher education.
• In August 2012, there was an outcry because of a
perception that university places for fee-paying RUK
students were plentiful, whereas Scottish students had
fewer available university places during “clearing”. The
Scottish government denied this was the case.
• If a university over-recruits, it must pay a penalty to the
Scottish government.
• Curriculum for Excellence has now been extended to
secondary level & FE.
• Equality Act means we must accommodate students with
disabilities, including specific learning differences.
• Financial reality means that many nominally full-time
students are working 15+ hours a week.
Implications for teaching staff
• Must teach a diverse student population:
– Not all Level 1 students are school-leavers who share
a similar background.
– Increasingly, students will be entering at Level 2
(“Direct Entry”).
– Many students who have received support for dyslexia
and other learning differences in school will expect
support at university.
However, as teachers we are not usually informed
of a student’s background / specific disability, etc.
• Each School has a Director of Teaching &
Learning, and a Director of Research; each
School has a disability officer.
• There are research networks, centres and
events at the university. There is increasing
research collaboration between universities.
• There are symposia on teaching & learning at
the university, as well as nationwide
(Enhancement Themes, etc.).
• The Centre for Learning & Teaching can give
tailored advice and help for teaching,
including e-learning.
• The Centre for Learning & Teaching offers a
Post-Graduate Certificate in Education.
• The Student Learning Service offers tailored
in-course sessions.
• Student Support organises provisions for
students with disabilities; this may include
seeing dyslexia adviser.
Online resources
• Centre for Learning & Teaching website has
resources and case studies of innovative teaching
practices here at Aberdeen.
• For Students:
– ACHIEVE on My Aberdeen (under My Organisations)
– Academic Learning Resources on My Aberdeen (under
My Organisations)
– Improving Your Writing
– SLS workshops (
• Centre for Learning & Teaching:
[email protected]
• Student Learning Service:
[email protected]

The Scottish Higher Education System: an overview of key