Best universities in Scotland 2024

By seeta.bhardwa@…, 28 March, 2024

Best universities in Scotland 2024

Scotland has a reputation for excellence in education, according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2024. It has the monopoly on Britain’s share of ancient universities too. Four of the top five universities in Scotland were founded before 1600, with the oldest, St Andrews, dating back to 1413.

Each year, when the World University Rankings are released, we use the data to compile a list of the top universities in Scotland. Based on the World University Rankings results compiled by our in-house data team, the University of Edinburgh is the best university in Scotland, with the University of Glasgow and the University of St Andrews in second and third places, respectively.

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2024 results

Scotland Rank 2024World University 2024 Rank World University 2023 Rank UniversityCity/town
1 =30  29 University of EdinburghEdinburgh
2 =87  =82 University of GlasgowGlasgow
3 =193  201–250 University of St AndrewsSt Andrews
4 201–250  =192 University of AberdeenAberdeen
=5 301–350  201–250 University of DundeeDundee
=5301-350401-500University of StrathclydeStrathclyde
7 351–400  501–600 Heriot-Watt UniversityEdinburgh
8 401–500  351–400 University of StirlingStirling
9 501–600  401–500 Edinburgh Napier UniversityEdinburgh
=10 601–800  601–800 Glasgow Caledonian UniversityGlasgow
=10 601–800  401–500 SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College)Edinburgh
=10601-800601-800University of the West of ScotlandPaisley
13 801–1000  1001–1200 Robert Gordon UniversityAberdeen

How we selected the best university in Scotland

The best universities in Scotland list is compiled by filtering the World University Rankings by each individual country. In this case we selected only the universities in Scotland that were in the World University Rankings to compile this list. 

Universities that submit data to the World University Rankings are assessed based on the following criteria: Teaching (the learning environment); Research Environment (volume, income and reputation); Research Quality (citation impact, research strength, research excellence and research influence); International Outlook (staff, students and research); and Industry (income and patents).

Our in-house data team also collects key statistics from each university, including the number of students, the student gender ratio, the staff-to-student ratio and the percentage of international students.

The full methodology for the World University Rankings can be found here

Best universities in Scotland 2023 vs 2024

There have been a few small changes to the best universities in Scotland between 2023 and 2024. While the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow maintained their top two positions, there were significant changes elsewhere.

The University of St Andrews moved up from joint fourth to third place, while the University of Aberdeen dropped from third to fourth in the rankings.

Robert Gordon University, formerly ranked ninth in 2023 shares 12th position in 2024. SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College) entered the top 10 this year. 

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1. University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh is Scotland’s most prestigious institution. It is ranked as one of the best universities in the world for arts and humanities, but also for law and psychology.

Students at the University of Edinburgh have the privilege of studying in some of the oldest and most enchanting buildings in the city.

The university has inspired some of the greatest minds in Scottish history, such as the philosopher David Hume and Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s also the place where Dolly the sheep became the first successful example of animal cloning.

  • Overall World Ranking: =30
  • Students per Member of Staff: 11
  • International Students: 46%
  • Female to Male Student Ratio: 61:39

2. University of Glasgow

As one of the top research universities in the UK, Glasgow produces a vast quantity of internationally recognised papers. Glasgow rivals Edinburgh for its architecture, with more than 100 listed buildings.

Seven Nobel prize-winners and three prime ministers have studied at Glasgow. Unusually, there are two students’ unions at the university. This tradition dates from the time when male and female students attended different institutions.

Glasgow University Union is famous for sports, while Queen Margaret Union’s music venue hosts internationally famous bands. 

  • Overall World Ranking: =87
  • Students per Member of Staff: 14
  • International Students: 43%
  • Female to Male Student Ratio: 59:41

3. University of St Andrews

Scotland’s oldest university, the University of St Andrews is located in the town of the same name on the east coast of Fife. It often tops rankings of Scottish universities and is renowned for its academic rigour and excellent research.

Notable alumni include six Nobel laureates, a handful of global ambassadors and the Prince and Princess of Wales. 

The university has a focus on sustainability and has boosted efforts to become carbon neutral. To help achieve this, it runs initiatives such as an energy-saving competition between the student halls of residence and provides green spaces on campus where students can grow their own produce.

  • Overall World Ranking: =193
  • Students per Member of Staff: 12
  • International Students: 46%
  • Female to Male Student Ratio: 58:42

4. University of Aberdeen

The University of Aberdeen is one of the leading universities in the UK for graduate employment.  Its campuses are a fascinating mix of old and new, reflecting the subject departments they contain.

Old Aberdeen campus has a 15th-century chapel and a state-of-the-art library, where arts and humanities students can find the perfect atmosphere to study.

Life sciences and medicine are mainly taught at the high-tech Foresterhill campus. The university also has a lighthouse field station and the Oceanlab research station, for studies specialising in marine ecology. 

  • Overall World Ranking: 201-250
  • Students per Member of Staff: 15
  • International Students: 40%
  • Female to Male Student Ratio: 58:42

=5. University of Dundee

The University of Dundee, established in 1881 is a leading public teaching and research institution. Initially in partnership with the University of St Andrews, it gained independent university status in 1967.

The university offers more than 500 courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, spanning sciences, business, arts and humanities, health, and law. The main campus is situated in the west end of the city.

The school of medicine and a research centre are located at Ninewells Hospital. The university’s student union hosts various events and sports contests. Sporting facilities encompass a gym, tennis courts and a 25-metre swimming pool.

The university provides eight student accommodation halls on- and off-campus, offering various shared-living options. 

  • Overall World Ranking: 301-350
  • Students per Member of Staff: 18
  • International Students: 25%
  • Female to Male Student Ratio: 65:35

=5. University of Strathclyde

Established in 1796, the University of Strathclyde stands as one of Glasgow’s oldest higher education institutions. The main campus is the John Anderson campus in the area of Strathclyde close to Glasgow city centre. 

The campus has diverse facilities, including student union spaces, sports amenities such as football and rugby pitches, indoor badminton courts and gym facilities. Academic facilities include the Technology and Innovation Centre, which has specialised pharmaceutical facilities.

  • Overall World Ranking: 301-350
  • Students per Member of Staff: 16
  • International Students: 25%
  • Female to Male Student Ratio: 51:49

7. Heriot-Watt University

Established in 1821 as the world’s first mechanics institute, Heriot-Watt University earned university status in 1966. With five campuses – in Edinburgh, the Scottish Borders, Dubai, Malaysia and Orkney – the university allows inter-campus transfers and participates in the Erasmus programme for international exchanges.

Organised into seven schools – including energy, geoscience, infrastructure and society; engineering and physical sciences; social sciences; mathematical and computer sciences; and textiles and design – the university offers a diverse range of academic disciplines.

  •   Overall World Ranking: 351-400
  •   Students per Member of Staff: 18
  •   International Students: 36%
  •   Female to Male Student Ratio: 39:61

8. University of Stirling

The University of Stirling is Scotland’s youngest university, having had its royal charter granted in 1967.

The university is organised across five academic faculties and offers a range of flexible courses and study-abroad opportunities

The university is also well known for its sporting facilities and courses. Stirling has strong sporting alumni associated with it, including professional golfer Gordon Sherry and Olympic swimmer Todd Cooper.

The university’s main campus is located a 10-minute bus ride away from the centre of Stirling, with other campuses in the Highlands, which offers a wide variety of medicine and teaching courses, and another in the Western Isles, situated close to Stornoway.

  • Overall World Ranking: 401-500
  • Students per Member of Staff: 19
  • International Students: 28%
  • Female to Male Student Ratio: 64:36

9. Edinburgh Napier University

Established in 1964, Edinburgh Napier University is a public university in Scotland. The university is made up of three campuses: Merchiston, Craiglockhart and Sighthill. 

The university comprises six schools offering a diverse range of courses in arts and creative industries, business, computing, engineering, the built environment, applied sciences, and health and social care. 

Edinburgh Napier University places a strong emphasis on practical experience, incorporating work placements into many courses and supporting student-led start-up businesses. There are a range of facilities, including a biomechanics lab, a clinical skills suite and multimedia studios, for students to use while they study there. 

  • Overall World Ranking: 501-600
  • Students per Member of Staff: 22
  • International Students: 34%
  • Female to Male Student Ratio: 52:48

Find out all about Scotland's top universities, and explore their world university ranking performance

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