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Why Scottish students should study in England

Why Scottish students should study in England

by Newcastle University

You don’t need to hop on a plane to study in another country…just cross the border into England.

If you’re a Scottish student thinking about studying in England, then keep reading, because we’ve taken a look at some of the differences between Scottish and English universities – and the results may surprise you!

Reputation and rankings

Both Scotland and England are home to prestigious universities that rank highly in world league tables. But when it comes to Russell Group members – research-intensive universities that maintain the very best research, an outstanding teaching and learning experience and unrivalled links with local and national business and the public sector – there’s only two in Scotland: Edinburgh and Glasgow universities.

England has 20 Russell Group universities, so, if studying in a world-class research environment is important to you and your degree programme, then it might be worth looking over the border.

And, just in case you were wondering, as well as being a Global Top 125 university in the QS World University Rankings 2023, Newcastle University is a founder member of the Russell Group.

University choice

There are 19 higher education institutions in Scotland and over 160 in England, which isn’t surprising given that the country is bigger and more populated.

But what that means for you is a more diverse choice when it comes to choosing a university – and the degree programme – that’s right for you.

Newcastle offers over 200 undergraduate degree programmes in the Arts, Humanities, Engineering, Sciences and Social Sciences, ranging from Accounting and Finance to Zoology. And if you want to go on to postgraduate study, you can choose from over 300 programmes.

Degree programmes

The average undergraduate course length in England is three years, so you’ll graduate sooner than in Scotland, where a Bachelor’s programme will take four years to complete.

In England, you’ll specialise in your chosen subject earlier, whereas in Scotland, you’ll study a range of subjects in your first two years before specialising in the next two.

If you're studying a Humanities or Social Sciences programme at one of Scotland’s four ‘ancient’ universities – St Andrew’s, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh – you might graduate with a Master of Arts.

This is different to the Bachelor of Arts you would get at most English universities, but isn’t the same as a postgraduate Master’s – it’s still an undergraduate degree.

Your qualifications

Your Scottish qualifications, including International Baccalaureate, are accepted at English universities.

And you won’t necessarily have to take Advanced Highers to secure an offer – a good set of Highers should be enough.

But if you do take Advanced Highers, some English universities regard these as more testing qualifications and could accept you with lower grades than equivalent A Level subjects.

At Newcastle we accept Highers qualifications – and you can find out more in the entrance requirements of the course profile you’re interested in.

Student number caps

Scottish universities are bound by strict recruitment controls, commonly known as ‘student number caps’. This means they can only accept a certain number of Scottish students on to their degree programmes, which has the knock-on effect of increasing competition for places.

If you’re applying for a popular degree programme at a Scottish university where demand for places is high, you could run a greater risk of being rejected.

Student number caps were lifted on English universities in 2015, although a temporary cap was reintroduced in 2020-21 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, the Department for Education carried out a consultation process on the reintroduction of student caps in England, but this is being fiercely resisted, meaning that universities can still expand their available degree places and welcome more students.

Tuition fees

As a Scottish undergraduate student attending a Scottish university you won’t have to pay tuition fees – they’re covered by the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS). In 2021/22 those fees were £1,820 a year; the fee for 2022/23 has yet to be confirmed.

If you study in England, you will have to pay the standard undergraduate tuition fee set by your English university – in 2021/2022 that was £9,250 a year; again, the fee for 2022/23 has yet to be confirmed.

But did you know that, if you’re eligible for Student Finance, you can get a Tuition Fee Loan to cover the cost of your tuition at an English university?

Your loan won’t have to be paid back until you’ve completed your course and are earning over £25,375 a year (before tax and other deductions). Plus, after 30 years, any remaining debt is wiped out.

Cost of living

When it comes to the cost of living, Scotland is generally considered to be cheaper than England, but it’s capital can be expensive.

Living and studying in Edinburgh could cost you more than living in the North of England – particularly when you bear in mind that our student-friendly city of Newcastle is ranked 8th in the UK for affordability (QS Best Student Cities 2022).

Closer than you think

And finally, crossing the border into another country, doesn’t mean you’ll be thousands of miles away from home – Newcastle is just 1 hour and 25 minutes from Edinburgh by train.

And if you do want to hop on a plane to go to uni you can do that, too – from Aberdeen, for instance, it's just a 50 minute direct flight to our International Airport.

We hope you've found this blog post useful. There's lots more to discover about the Newcastle University experience, so why not start exploring where your next adventure could take you?

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