Routes to Higher Education

Focus Point provides pupils with lots of information on the Scottish higher education options that may be open to them after school.


There are 18 universities (and creative arts institutions) in Scotland offering degree-level courses in a wide variety of subjects.

Generally, applicants require four or more good Higher grades in order to earn a place on a university course directly from school. Entry requirements can vary significantly though between different universities, so pupils are encouraged to compare different courses and different universities through UCAS. While they may not quite achieve the grades required for one institution, they may well achieve a place somewhere else.

Pupils can apply for up to five different courses through UCAS – the online University and College Admissions Service. See UCAS Deadlines.

To read our advice for pupils, see Applying to University.


There are 9 colleges in the west of Scotland, many of which were formed in recent years when several colleges merged into single institutions.

The college sector offers courses in numerous subjects and at a variety of levels from National Certificates (NC) to Higher National Diplomas (HND). See Understanding College Qualifications.

HNC and HND qualifications are highly regarded by many employers. Generally, applicants require 1 or 2 Highers at grade C or above to gain a place.


For many jobs, an HNC or HND will be sufficient for entry. However, many students choose to move on to university after completing their college qualification.

Some universities will allow students who have completed an HNC/HND to jump ahead into the second or third year of a degree course in a related subject. This is called ‘articulation’. For many students this is a faster and smoother route to gaining a university degree.

Focus Point has pulled together some examples of popular ‘articulation’ options here.

To read all our advice for pupils on college applications, see Applying to College.