Official Guide to Edinburgh
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Edinburgh Universities

Boasting six diverse universities, there is an extensive range of university courses available for students.

The higher education institutions of Edinburgh City Region range from ancient to modern, yet they all have a highly contemporary outlook with exceptionally high standards of education.

With an emphasis on proactive and independent thinking, a Scottish education develops skills that are much desired by top companies, giving you better career prospects and higher potential earnings.

 Year on year, demand rises for the places at Edinburgh universities and high-calibre students apply from all over the world for the extensive and varied university courses. Many stay on after graduation, with a higher proportion of graduates living here than anywhere else in Scotland. International graduates of Scottish universities or colleges can live and work in Scotland for two years after graduating without the need for a work permit.

Edinburgh universities have an impressive record of research commercialisation. For example, home-grown spin-outs include the highly successful Wolfson Microelectronics group and Barco, world leader in medical image software.

Discover our Universities:

  • Heriot Watt University
  • Edinburgh Napier University
  • Queen Margaret University
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • Royal College of Surgeons
  • Scotland's Rural College (SRUC)
  • Universities – Wider City Region

Heriot-Watt University

With five campuses around the world, including one in Malaysia and one in Dubai, Heriot-Watt University has a proud history of world-class teaching and practical, leading-edge research dating back to 1821. Regarded as one of the top UK universities for business and industry, Heriot-Watt has three UK locations in Edinburgh, Orkney and the Scottish Borders.

Heriot-Watt has a strong track record for developing industry-fit graduates thanks to its distinctive range of degree programmes in specialist areas of science, engineering, design, business and languages which are taught with the needs of the wider industry in mind.

The University delivers degree programmes to 11,800 students in 150 countries around the world making it Scotland's most international university. Its two international campuses offer students a truly unrivalled global education. 

The Guardian University Guide 2017 ranked Heriot-Watt 4th in Scotland. The QS World's Top Universities 2015/16 placed Heriot-Watt in the top 4% of universities globally. 


  • Heriot-Watt’s Go Global programme offers students the opportunity to become a global student by taking part in an Inter-Campus Transfer (to Malaysia or Dubai), Erasmus+ or Exchange.
  • Oriam, Scotland's Sports Performance Centre is based at Heriot-Watt's Edinburgh Campus. This £33 million purpose-built sports facility will see Heriot-Watt become the training hub for, among others, Scotland’s national football and rugby squads.
  • In 2016, a second phase of brand new student residences opened in Edinburgh providing more modern, contemporary accommodation. All new entrants are guaranteed a place in University managed accommodation.

Some famous alumni

Among Heriot-Watt's alumni are authors Irvine Welsh and Dame Muriel Spark, politicians Fiona Hyslop MSP and Sarah Boyack MSP, Royal Mail CEO Adam Crozier and Richard Tait, inventor of the board game Cranium.

Edinburgh Napier University

Edinburgh Napier University is a professional, ambitious, innovative and inclusive university situated in the prospering capital of Scotland. A modern multi-campus university equipped with purpose-built facilities with the latest technology, it serves almost 20,000 students from 140 different countries, a truly worldwide network of friends and business contacts.

From ecotourism to cybersecurity, sustainable construction to design, Edinburgh Napier offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses. It is a globally recognised university scoring five stars for teaching, internationalisation and employability in the QS Stars University Ratings.


The University works closely with industry to develop students and the skills they need to succeed in the workplace; 88% of undergraduate students have the opportunity to undertake work-related experience as part of their course.

Opportunities include:

- Work-based placements and internships
- Group projects where students act as consultants to real clients
- Employer and alumni mentoring to build industry contacts and grow confidence
- Field study-visits to see working practice, design and operational aspects outside the classroom
- Guest lectures from experts in their field.

Edinburgh Napier’s research is focused on specialist areas aligned with the present and future needs of industry. From the future of refugee housing to lighting up Scotland’s historic capital city, or saving lives in earthquake-prone parts of the world to making Scotland’s roads safer, the University’s research helps shape the world, improving lives locally and globally.

Supporting over 450 startup businesses in the past decade, Bright Red Triangle is Edinburgh Napier’s hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. Access to free incubator space, business advice and consultancy projects give students and graduates a competitive edge in the business world or help them launch their own business.

Confident Futures is a distinct programme for personal development created by Edinburgh Napier University. Available to all students, it promotes confidence, improves self-awareness and enhances employability, equipping students with personal skills that matter for their future career.

More than 95% of Edinburgh Napier graduates are in employment or further study within six months (Destination of Leavers of Higher Education Survey 2016).

Some famous alumni

Tavish Scott MSP, BBC broadcaster Catriona Shearer, athletes Lynsey Sharp and Stephen Payton, photographers David Eustace and Colin Baxter and film director Lynne Ramsay are amongst the Edinburgh Napier University alumni family.

Queen Margaret University

Queen Margaret University (QMU) delivers professional learning and specialises in research that enhances people’s lives. They offer vocationally relevant courses in the areas of healthcare, social sciences and communication, drama and the creative industries and business and enterprise – many unique in Scotland. One of the smallest universities in the city region, this results in smaller class sizes, closer contacts between students and staff and ensures that a student is not just a ‘face in the crowd’.

Their modern, single campus is the first purpose-built campus development in Scotland for 40 years. Located in east Edinburgh, by Musselburgh, it incorporates a vibrant new academic village with high-tech buildings and attractive landscaped spaces, featuring an innovative learning resource centre at the heart of the development.

University Courses

The university offers 30 undergraduate courses; 52 postgraduate courses; 20 Continuous Professional Development and Lifelong Learning courses. QMU offers the broadest range of allied health professional degrees in Scotland including Dietetics, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Podiatry, Radiography, Audiology, Art Therapy, Music Therapy(Postgrad only), and Speech and Language Therapy.

They are the only place in Scotland specialising in international health care. Through their Institute for International Health & Development, students are studying in Angola, Guatemala, Uganda, Ethiopia, Gambia, India and Cuba.

Some famous alumni

Ashley Jensen (actor Extras and Ugly Betty), Matt Baker (TV Presenter), Edith Bowman (TV and Radio presenter), Dougie Anderson (TV and Radio presenter), Kevin McKidd (actor Trainspotting, Small Faces), Jimmy Chisholm (actor Braveheart) Brian Marjoribanks (former professional footballer and presenter of Sportscene), Sally Gray (Tv and Radio presenter). 

Royal College of Surgeons

The Royal College of Surgeons is located in Nicolson Street, Edinburgh. One of the world’s oldest medical professional institutions, it celebrated its 500thanniversary in 2005. With over 15,000 members and fellows worldwide, it raises standards in surgical and dental practice through short clinical and non-clinical training courses and professional examinations for surgeons and dentists. These take place in Edinburgh and selected overseas centres and are open to professionals of any nationality who meet the entry qualifications.

The College provides surgical, dental and ophthalmology skills training facilities. It’s also developing links with Edinburgh University for teaching anatomy.

Famous fellows include Lord Lister, known as the father of modern surgery, and Joseph Bell – famously characterised as Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle. 

Scotland's Rural College (SRUC)

Scotland’s Rural College specialises in subjects concerning existing and emerging land-based industries and pursuits, applied biological and animal sciences, sustainable land-use, and environmental protection and management. These issues affect us all and have never before provoked so much interest. The SRUC Edinburgh Campus offers courses at HNC, HND and degree level and offers a range of postgraduate and flexible/distance learning programmes.

This unique institution also has an innovative and leading research and development programme and runs an international advisory and consultancy service.

SRUC has six campuses within Scotland situated in Aberdeen, Ayr, Barony, Edinburgh, Elmwood and Oatridge.


Courses available cover HNC, HND, degree, honours degree, and postgraduate level. They include: Adventure Tourism, Sustainable Environmental Management, Business Management, Agriculture, Horticulture, Sport and Leisure, Biological and Food Science, Landscape and Garden Design, Animal Science, Environmental Protection, Rural Tourism, Applied Bioscience, Countryside and Conservation, Rural Resource Management, Poultry Studies, Environmental Studies, and Green Technology (new and unique in Scotland).

Environmental degrees are awarded by the University of Edinburgh, and some of our Horticulture courses are offered jointly with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Many of our other degree courses are awarded by the University of Glasgow.

Some famous alumni:

Ed Byrne (stand-up comedian), Alex Fergusson (MSP), John Home-Robertson (MSP), Jim McColl (TV and radio gardener), Robert Reid (World Champion Rally Co-driver), Sheila Swan (member of the 2002 World Champion Curling Team), Doddie Weir (Rugby Union internationalist).

University of Edinburgh

Founded in 1583, the University of Edinburgh is one of the world's top universities and is globally recognised for research, development and high-quality teaching, attracting some of the world's leading thinkers to work and study here.

The university offers excellent resources and facilities with around 500 degree programmes, more than 300 taught masters courses and 135 research areas covering a wide range of academic disciplines.

Students benefit from a strong research environment that informs the university’s academic programmes.  It was ranked first in Scotland and fifth in the UK in the most recent RAE, a UK-wide study of research excellence.

The student has over 31,000 students including over 11,000 international students from over 130 different nationalities contributing to a cosmopolitan and multicultural learning environment.

Quick facts

  • Consistently ranked as one of the best 50 universities in the world. (Times Higher Education World University Ranking 2012, QS World University Ranking 2013/2014)
  • Currently 17th in the QS World University Ranking. (2013/2014)
  • 95% of graduates go into employment or further study. (HESA Destination of Higher Education Leavers Survey 2010/2011)
  • One of the top 10 sporting universities in the UK. (BUCS University Sport Table 2011/2012)
  • Two-thirds of the world's nationalities study here. (Annual Review 2010/2011)
  • 96% of departments produce world-leading research. (The UK Research Assessment Exercise 2008)
  • The university has invested £80 million to maintain and enhance our teaching and learning spaces. (2007-2012)

Wider City Region

Within the wider Edinburgh City Region there are a further two universities: the University of Stirling and The University of St Andrew’s.

The University of Stirling is located on a beautiful campus in the historic city of Stirling. It has an excellent reputation for its research and teaching and offers flexible learning options.

Accolades include:

  • Best Student Experience: Stirling University is ranked in the top ten for the UK’s Best Student Experience. The Times Higher Education Supplement, 2006
  • Quality Teaching: Overall, Stirling is in the top ten in the UK for Teaching Assessment. The Times Top 100 Universities, 2005.

The University of St Andrews is Scotland's first university and the third oldest in the UK.  It is located in the picturesque coastal town of St Andrew’s. The university maintains an enviable reputation for success in teaching, research and employment.

Accolades include: 

  • In the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council's Teacher Quality Assessment, St Andrews was the only university in Scotland to have achieved the top rating of Excellent or Highly Satisfactory for every unit
  • The Research Assessment Exercise classified the university as one of the top 10 UK universities for research.