Although Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, it has its own separate system of higher education. The Scottish higher education system is distinguished from that of England and the rest of the UK by both the duration of undergraduate degrees and also the increased flexibility afforded to undergraduate students.
The Aberdeen Degree
Whereas undergraduate degrees in England are generally three years in duration, in Scotland an honours level undergraduate degree is four years. Also, unlike in England where students usually specialise in one subject from their first year of study, in Scotland students can choose to study different subjects during their first two years before deciding on which one(s) to specialise (major).
The Scottish system has always been well regarded internationally and many of its distinguishing traditions – including the length and structure of undergraduate degrees – have since been adopted by other countries, including the United States.
The University of Aberdeen offers a range of degree programmes:
- Master of Arts (MA)*
- Bachelor of Divinity (BD)
- Bachelor of Science (BSc)
- Bachelor of Engineering/Master of Engineering
- Bachelor of Education (BEd)
- Bachelor of Music (BMus)
- MBChB (Medicine)
- Bachelor of Law (LLB)
*Note: The Master of Arts (MA) is the name given to the four-year undergraduate degree awarded in the Liberal Arts, Humanities or Social Sciences by the University of Aberdeen and the other ancient universities of Scotland – St Andrews, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. The use of the word 'Master' is a historical quirk, and was traditionally used to distinguish the four-year system in Scotland from the three-year undergraduate degree in England. The four-year Master of Arts is recognised as the equivalent to a four-year Bachelor’s degree.
Applicants holding IB, A-level or CAPE high school leaving qualifications will be considered for undergraduate entry. CAPE applicants should present six units, including two double-unit courses with an overall average grade of at least III (3) in both double units, to be considered.
Undergraduate programmes at the University of Aberdeen are based on a credit system, where students accumulate credits over the four years of their studies. A full-time student generally takes 60 credits per semester (half session), which equates to 120 credits per year. Most classes equate to 15 credits, which means a student can generally expect to take up to four 15 credit point courses per semester (or equivalent).
All degree programmes contain certain prescribed courses for each year o study, however in addition students choose a number of classes from other subjects through the University's Enhanced Study programme. These include:
- Sixth Century courses: explore topical issues from a range of disciplinary perspectives
- Sustained Study programmes: focus more closely on a specific area of study (such as a language) for two years, alongside your main subject (major).
- Discipline Breadth courses: alternatively you may choose to pick up your Enhanced Study options through studying a selection of courses from one of the wide range of degree programmes offered.
Most programmes include a research dissertation, which gives students the opportunity to apply their knowledge and research skills to an individual piece of research, while work placements are included in some programmes.
Changing your Major
The tradition in Scotland is to admit students to a degree programme rather than to a particular subject. While you list a specific programme on your application, essentially you will be admitted to the relevant degree programme rather than a particular subject. This means that in most cases it is possible to switch to another subject (major) within your degree programme after you have begun your studies. For example, a student who had originally intended to study English might end up graduating with a degree in History or International Relations, while a student who originally studied Biology might switch to a subject such as Chemistry.
The University of Aberdeen has 15,000 students, including 12,000 undergraduate students and 3,000 graduate students. 30% of our students come from outside of the UK, which means we have a great deal of experience in welcoming international students to our campus.
As a medium-sized university, we offer a wide variety of subjects, excellent facilities and a very active student community, while also maintaining a more personalised student support system. For example, all of our undergraduate students are allocated a Personal Tutor, a member of faculty who provides support and guidance throughout your studies. In addition, we offer a range of support services including
- International Student Advisers
- Personal Tutors
- Residence Assistants
- Disability Office