The benefits of obtaining further and higher education

If you are a migrant from with the EU and are looking to improve your career prospects in Scotland, getting an extra qualification by going to a university or a college is a good option. The most obvious benefit is that further education in Scotland is free of tuition fees, unlike in England, where applicants within the E.U. can pay up to £9000, and applicants outside the E.U. can pay up to £17,000.

A summary of benefits of getting a higher qualification (according to research):

  • Greater opportunities in the UK & abroad for both employment and academia.
  • Having a degree will often result in a better pay as you are better qualified for a larger job market.
  • Bodies exist to help support living costs of students, e.g. the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).
  • Research shows that parents who attained a degree from a university institution benefited their child or children’s development in early life.

Higher and Further Education in Scotland

There are 15 universities in Scotland, with four out these ranked in the Times Higher Education Top 200. There are 20 colleges in Scotland; these colleges offer vocational training such as diplomas for people over the age of sixteen. These bodies of higher and further education will supply the qualifying education most suitable for your individual circumstances and career direction.

Some good introductory websites for why you should study in Scotland:

It is worthwhile to understand the differences between higher and further education. The type of qualification also affects the duration of learning and financial supports you will be able to apply. These websites should help you understand what each type of education grants what qualifications.

Further education

Further education means courses taken at college, excluding degree level courses. Further education tends to be more work-focused (vocational) and is usually fully funded.

Further education includes:

National Qualifications

City and Guilds vocational courses

Access courses


Higher education

Higher education is degree level education and can be taken at university or college. Most degrees in Scotland take four years to complete and can be vocational, non-vocational or a mixture of the two.

Higher education includes:


Higher National Certificates (HNCs)

Higher National Diplomas (HNDs)

Postgraduate courses such as PhDs

Note: you could choose to start off doing a FE access course at a local college and later on move on to HE to study a degree so these two are not in conflict.


UCAS also has produced a guide for further and higher education institutions comparing school level international qualifications to UK equivalents and provides a guide to the marking schemes for certain countries.

Step three: Getting started

Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF)

For funding and admission purpose, it is important that you get yourself familiar with the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). This is the national credit transfer system for all levels of qualifications in Scotland. It is used to assess and decide how many your previous learning qualifications can be transferred into the universities and colleges in Scotland. When you [are] looking for jobs or applying for further education, this framework will be used to calculate your level. The aim is to make it easier for employers and education institutions to understand the level to which an applicant had been educated. A secondary aim is to remove prejudice against vocational and non-traditional qualifications.

Other sources related to SCQF are:

UK National Academic Recognition Information Centre (UK NARIC)

[This] is the National Agency responsible for providing information and advice on worldwide qualifications. Comparisons cannot be made on how grades for the international qualification will compare to its UK counterpart, meaning that UCAS points will not be given. Official comparisons by UK NARIC will incur a charge; however they do have an advice line for students with simple queries.

Equivalent European qualification Framework (EQF)

For European qualifications, you can compare between EU countries through the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). This provides an overview of what the equivalent qualification is within the UK, although does not provide information on the grading system. European Qualifications Framework

Process for applying to college or university

Application process

Check out to interact with peers to get real insights about living and studying in the universities that you wish to apply for.

Funding and scholarships

If you are serious of going ahead to apply for a further qualification, then the next step is to sort out your finances! Whatever your age, abilities or family responsibilities, there are a number of financial supports available to you. Funding can come as a grant or a loan or, in some circumstances, as free course fees. Your income will be assessed to see what you are entitled to and there is different support depending on the type of course you want to do. Here is a list of websites that can help you find what level of support you are entitled to.