Understanding the Scottish education system

The University of Aberdeen is one of the ancient universities of Scotland, offering you the chance to study within a unique and prestigious degree system.

Aberdeen students working together at uni

Higher education in Scotland

The UK is known throughout the world for its education system, consisting of high-quality teaching, top academic results and excellent graduate prospects. Within this education system sits the Scottish system, which differs slightly from that in the rest of the UK. Scottish degrees are much more flexible than their English equivalent, allowing you to study subjects from a range of areas before finding the specialism that is right for you. In addition to this, an undergraduate degree in Scotland is typically four years in length. This educational system is one of the oldest in the world and has inspired similar systems in countries such as the USA, Canada, China and Hong Kong.

Due to the flexible nature of Scottish degrees, as well as the level of independent study offered at its universities, graduates are highly valued by employers. You can study a degree in Scotland at a variety of levels, including:

  • Undergraduate (MA or BSc)
  • Postgraduate (including MSc, MBA, LLM)
  • PhD

What is a Scottish MA degree?

One of the many features of Scottish education that makes it so unique is its undergraduate MA programme. Despite its name, the MA is equivalent to the BA degree you might find in other countries. An MA degree stands for Master of Arts and allows students to spend four years studying their undergraduate degree, exploring different areas of study and discovering the right specialism for them. The postgraduate degree referred to as an MA in other countries (and certain Scottish universities) is often referred to as an MSc, MLitt, or Master of Letters.

What is an ancient university?

Masters of Arts degrees in Scotland are a product of Scotland’s ancient universities. The University of Aberdeen makes up one of these six universities and was founded in 1495. Aberdeen is the third oldest university in Scotland, and the fifth oldest university in the United Kingdom.

Practical learning and work experience

Many UK university courses offer practical learning as part of their degree programmes. Practical learning is a great way to put what you learn in the classroom into practice. By completing a work placement, you will also gain a variety of other skills outside of your subject area, including:

  • Teamwork
  • Communication skills
  • An understanding of the world of work
  • Industry awareness and networking opportunities

At the University of Aberdeen, some degrees may offer internships or work placements as part of their course. You can also undertake placements outside of your studies, on holidays or after you graduate, with the University’s CareerConnect website.

Understanding the four-year degree

As an undergraduate student at an ancient university, a four-year degree helps you to learn more about the subject you love and ensures you graduate as an expert in your subject. At the International Study Centre, your pathway programme doesn't add any extra time onto your degree — ensuring you graduate in the typical four years. Find out more about what makes the four-year degree so special.

University of Aberdeen student Love on campus

The reason for choosing Scotland was the fact that it's a four-year degree, giving you the option to tap into multiple different degrees. The first two years I definitely wasn't sure I was going to study economics. I applied for economics and international relations, because I thought with my background and my grades that is what I could get into, but I knew the Scottish system would allow me to try different degrees and options."

Love from Austria
MA Economics

Aberdeen University students sat outside on campus


Our extensive programme offerings will help you to find the best pathway for you. Whether you want to study an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, or have a passion for science, engineering or business, there is a pathway for you.

Aberdeen students talking in a communal space

How to apply

Ready to join us at the International Study Centre? Learn more about the application process and what you need to do before you arrive.

Join us today

Our student enrolment advisors are available to answer your questions and help you with your application. We are looking forward to welcoming you to the Aberdeen family.