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Studying in Scotland Guide
A student guide

This is the time of year that students dread and when parents rejoice. Yes, it is the time of year in Scotland when schools, colleges and universities restart for the autumn term. Each School or College is slightly different in start dates but most commonly it is towards the middle or end of August, with Universities starting slightly later.

A brief background to Scotland's education system: From the age of five till twelve most children will attend their local primary school, studying a general education which will commonly include at least basic literacy and numerical skills. From twelve onwards until they are a minimum of sixteen (the legal age for leaving school) or a maximum of eighteen they will attend high school. Here they will study a general education for the first two years and will then choose which academic or vocational course/subjects they wish to follow. As with all systems there are exceptions but generally this will be the path that most people will follow.

Whilst examination will take place in some form during the early school years it is only when a student reaches 15 or 16 that they start to receive certificated exams such as Standard Grades (taken in the year four of secondary), Higher Grades (taken in the year five of secondary) or modules which were certificated by a different body until the amalgamation of national examining bodies last year into the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

From the age of sixteen everyone has a choice whether to continue with education, go into employment or unemployment or go to College or University to continue their post-school education. Each college and university has different systems but again broadly speaking the system in Scotland is:
Colleges one year - Higher National Certificate - Then employment/unemployment or continue studies
Colleges two years- Higher National Diploma - Then employment/unemployment or continue studies at university

Some colleges will also offer post (university) graduate work in specialist courses or they might also offer the chance to obtain pre entry qualifications (or second chance qualifications as they are sometimes known) such as a National Certificate. As with most education systems these are currently undergoing change and review but is the situation as at today's date.

Universities will offer three-,four- and five- year degree courses dependent on qualification and level, which is to be achieved. Entrance would normally be made at year one, but some will allow direct entry to a later year to people holding HNC/HND awarded by associated colleges or equivalent qualifications. It is at this stage that you will start to require assistance tailored to yourself. Firstly you must establish whether British Immigration laws will admit you as a student. Secondly you will then require to consider which college or university you wish to study at using a map where appropriate. For entry to most colleges you will apply directly to the college that you have selected. Most Universities will use a clearing system known as U.C.A.S., however for some courses and for some universities you will apply to them direct. Check with the student officer/offices/admission section of the college or university concerned most of who will be on the web. One very useful address at this stage would be your local British Council office or website, (the United States office of the British Council is particularly good).

Please don't just consider Universities that you have heard of. All colleges offer similar qualifications and they are often a good (and cheaper) stepping stone to Higher Education. Next week I will consider accommodation questions and the all-important question of finance.

Student Accommodation
Part two of this article