campus encounters

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Scottish Universities

During the NACAC conference in Denver, I attended a lunch sponsored by the Scottish Universities. I knew very little about the options in Scotland before this, and although we only got a quick overview, there’s some interesting stuff going on there.


  • Scottish universities use a similar system to the US in which students can opt for a major and a minor.
  • The Scottish Universities rank third in the world in terms of research output (number of academic papers).
  • Scotland has a population of 5.1 million people which is 9% of the UK’s population (second only to England).
  • Scotland hosts over 30K international students from over 180 countries.
  • Student Life: There are many cultural and nightlife opportunities: clubs, societies, sports, theater, restaurants, music. It’s a friendly, safe, and welcoming environment.
  • They offer quite a bit of student support: Pre-arrival advice and guidance, Airport Welcome, Visa and immigration advice, social events program, international student center, careers service, library, housing (guaranteed often, at least for first year.
  • The UK universities use UCAS, (, a University Admission Service that allows students to fill out 1 form that will be submitted to up to 5 UK universities.
    • The cost is £21, about $30
    • There are particular things to note about the application process:
      • They’re interested in AP exams or SAT subject tests. These should be noted in the application, both completed and what will be attempted during senior year.
      • Write a personal statement to support application. This is not creative or personal piece but a neutral essay telling them why you want to study the particular subject area. It shouldn’t be directed to a particular university unless you are only applying to one university.
      • The Counselor recommendation should introduce the candidate and the high school and curriculum, then a commentary/narrative about the student, particularly including information from teachers of the discipline they wish to study.
      • 10/15 deadline for clinical programs (medicine, etc). Otherwise they can apply up to June 30, but some have earlier internal deadlines. They do recommend applying in the fall.


  • Founded in 1495 (3rd oldest in Scotland, 5th in UK). Beautiful friendly campus.
  • About 16,000 students; 20% international
  • 270 million pounds investment over the next 10 years: Olympic standard sports village, new library, more.
  • Curriculum reform: different from other Scottish universities. 25% of classes in first 2 years are taken out of the major; 12.5% in the honors years (3rd and 4th)
  • Over 60 undergrad programs; 150 masters programs.


  • Dundee, a city of 150,000 people, is located on east coast, north of Edinburgh. The University is in city center.
  • Established in 1881 and has 18,000 students. 43% are international from 85 countries.
  • The Life Sciences department is the largest section. They have a Nobel Prize winner on faculty.
  • Medicine: only 12 spots for international students. Largest teaching hospital in Scotland is located here.
  • £200 million redevelopment project.
  • Nightclub on campus; lots of new sports stuff, and new student accommodation.


  • Founded in 1583 in the capital city just south of the historic city center. They’re within walking distance to the National Library, National Gallery, Museum of Scotland, and the Parliament.
  • They’re often ranked in top 25 in the world.
  • They merged with Edinburgh College of Arts. Now there are 30K total, about 20K undergrads. Lots of North American students (about 2500). 140 different nationalities (30% non-UK).
  • This is a comprehensive institution; there are very few programs they don’t have.
  • They host the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.


  • Very different from others – it’s a small, specialized school.
  • Only three departments: Fine Art (painting, sculpture, photo), Design (product design, engo component, fashion and textiles, jewelry), Architecture.
  • Glasgow is a great city for the arts.
  • Prestigious awards are often given to students, including 4 Turner Prize winners
  • The key factor in admissions is the portfolio, and applications should check online for requirements.
  • They do offer scholarships for international students.
  • Degrees are accredited through University of Glasgow.


  • Founded in 1451 (2nd oldest in Scotland, 4th in England)
  • 15,500 undergrads. 16% overseas students representing 120 different countries. The US contingent is 600 strong.
  • #59 World Ranking; 90% student satisfaction; 150 Student Clubs and Societies; 2 STUs
  • Adam Smith College of Economics.
  • $20,000 per year.


  • The oldest in Scotland (1413) located in a stunning medieval coastal town. No real campus; instead, it’s intertwined in the town.
  • Ranked 1st in Scotland, 3rd in the UK
  • 7,400 students total; 6,000 undergrads (small class size). 42% from outside the UK (13% from the US).
  • Popular degree subjects include international relations, history, econ, psych, physics, and sustainable development.
  • Very highly rank of student satisfaction which includes such things as completion rates and activities on campus.
  • They offer a joint degree with William and Mary: Students complete two years at each and get a degree from both.
  • New £45million medical science center.


  • This is located in Central Scotland (William Wallace country) less than an hour from Glasgow and Edinburgh. You can see Stirling Castle from campus.
  • Highly ranked academic schools: Applied Social Science, Arts and Humanities, Education, Management, Natural Science, Nursing, Midwifery, and health/sport.
  • 8,500 undergrads, 3,000 grads. 12% international.
  • The campus is on a 310 acre estate and is very green with a good campus community feel.

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