Your bookmarked countries have an update since your last login. View Bookmarks x

Aug 11, 2020

Scotland's results day: Thousands of pupils have exam grades lowered

Thousands of Scottish school pupils have received worse results than they had been expecting after the country's exam body lowered 125,000 estimated grades that were accessed by teachers. Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) faces backlash and First Minister of Scotland apologizes after accepting her government "did not get it right" over Scottish exam results.

Learn more »



Scotland lies on the northern third of the island of Great Britain. It is bordered by England to the south, the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Irish Sea. The population is 5,144,200 and the literacy rate is 99%.

After the Ice Age, hunter-gatherers arrived in the area of present-day Scotland. It was briefly occupied by the Romans. The Kingdom of the Picts was established in the 6th century AD and lasted until the late 13th century with the death of Queen Margaret. This was followed by the Bruce Dynasty and then the Stuart Dynasty which ruled throughout the Middle Ages. The 1707 Act of Union united England and Scotland, and Great Britain was formed.


The educational system of Scotland is different from the rest of the United Kingdom. There is a long history of formal education in Scotland. Schools run by churches were established during the Middle Ages, and the Scottish Parliament established schools during the 17th century. Many acts during the 19th century established free and compulsory education, made schools the responsibility of local boards rather than churches, and required teachers to have some form of training.

English is the language of instruction, and some schools in the Gaelic-speaking part of the country teach some classes in Gaelic. Education is free and compulsory from ages 5 to 16. Currently, Scotland's Department for Education oversees the country's secondary education system while the Department of Education, Training, and Skills oversees tertiary education.

Primary and Secondary Education

Primary school (P1-P7) is 7 years. No credential is awarded after completion of primary school.

All secondary educational qualifications in Scotland are organized in the National Credit and Qualifications Framework which has 5 levels: Access (has 3 different sub-levels 1-3), Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2, Higher and Advanced Higher. Access 3 replaces the former Standard Grade Foundation Certificate, Intermediate 1 replaces Scottish Certificate of Education (SCE) General level, and Intermediate 2 replaces SCE Credit level. The Advanced Higher Level replaced the former Certificate of Sixth Year Studies.

Lower secondary (S1-S4) school is four years and after completion of S4, students sit for the Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC) Intermediate 2. The SQC was formerly known as the Scottish Certificate of Education (SCE). Upper secondary is two years (S5-S6). After completion of S5, students sit for SQC examinations at the Higher level or at an appropriate National Qualifications Framework level. After completion of S6, students sit for SQC examinations at the Advanced Higher, Higher, or at a lower level.

Post-Secondary Education

Universities were founded in Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries, and there are currently 14 universities operating in Scotland in addition to 6 other higher education institutions. All are funded by the Scottish Funding Council. There are no private higher education institutions in Scotland. Admission to higher education institutions requires grades of A-C on the Higher or Advanced Higher level examinations, or a Higher National Certificate or Higher National Diploma. Applications to higher education institutions in Scotland are centralized at the Universities and Colleges Admission Services (UCAS).

First Cycle, Academic

The first level of university study is 3 years and students are awarded a Bachelor's Ordinary or General degree, while the ancient universities (St. Andrew's, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow) award a Master's Ordinary or General degree after 3 years of study. Bachelor's Honours degrees are 4 years and are more specialized than the Ordinary and General degrees, and the ancient universities award a Master's Honours degree after 4 years of study.

First Cycle, Vocational/Technical

Vocational/technical post-secondary education is offered at local colleges. The certificates were previously awarded by the Scottish Vocational Education Council (SCOTVEC), and are now awarded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). The Higher National Certificate is 1 year, and the Higher National Diploma is a 2-year program.

Second and Third Cycles

Post-graduate programs include the Postgraduate Certificate which represents 6 months to 3 years of study, the Postgraduate Diploma which represents 1-5 years of study, and the Master's degree, Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Master of Letters (MLitt) which are 1 to 3 years of study. Doctoral programs are 3 to 5 years longer and require a Bachelor's Honours, Master's Honours, a master's degree, MPhil or MLitt for admission. Upon successful defense of a dissertation and oral examination, students are awarded a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).

The Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBChB), Bachelor of Dentistry, and the Bachelor of Veterinary Science are 5-year programs requiring a Higher Level certificate for admission, in addition to other entrance examinations.



Upcoming AACRAO Events

Crises as Catalysts for Transformation

Fall 2020 | virtual conference

Join us this fall for a virtual Strategic Enrollment Management Conference - Crises as Catalysts for Transformation: 2020’s Impact on Higher Education and Enrollment.

This three day, virtual conference will feature models for adapting to change, meeting challenges, and planning strategically post-pandemic.

Explore the SEM Conference
SEM_2020_1440x400 update

106th AACRAO Annual Meeting

March 28 - 31, 2021 | National Harbor, MD

AACRAO’s Annual Meeting is our largest convening of higher education professionals from around the world. Join more than 2,000 administrators in person or online as we work to address the issues facing today’s campuses, share goals and guidelines for meeting those challenges, and provide a forum for learning and sharing experiences.

Explore the Annual Meeting