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Undergraduate Study

 

Fàilte gu Cambridge!

Amber Cuttill and Finn Manders co-wrote this webpage to present information that you, as a potential applicant from Scotland, will hopefully find helpful. Amber is the Deputy Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Head of Widening Participation at Pembroke College (one of Cambridge’s Area Links Colleges for Scotland), and Finn is the Schools Liaison Officer for Emmanuel College, and a Cambridge History graduate from rural Stirlingshire.

 

Introduction

At Cambridge we are committed to attracting the best students from all over the UK, including Scotland. We deliver outreach work in Scotland and welcome Scottish students to Cambridge. This forms part of our commitment to admit more representative UK cohorts. We have created this page to draw together all the information that we hope that you, as a student applying from Scotland, will find helpful in supporting you in your application.

Education system key differences

We know that students applying to Cambridge from Scotland may be more familiar with the Scottish Higher Education system, and that you may have some questions as a result of this. Here is an overview of the differences you may find between studying in Scotland and studying at Cambridge.

  Scotland Cambridge
Applying UCAS UCAS
Entry requirements Usually based on Highers/Advanced Highers Advanced Highers
Length of degree Usually 4 years Usually 3 years, sometimes 4
Name of qualification at end of degree (all equiv.) MA/BA/BSc BA

Studying at a University in Scotland will often involve choosing multiple subjects in your first and second years, before specialising (‘Honours’) in a single or joint degree. At Cambridge, you will select one course when applying and study the papers (often called modules elsewhere) within that course. This will often include broad options, with the ability to specialise over the degree; for others, this will mean you are specialised within that subject from the first year.

Entry requirements

Generally, applicants to Cambridge apply during S6 whilst studying three Advanced Highers (or after finishing school, having taken three Advanced Highers in S6). We know that for some students, however, this is not possible. If this applies to you then we recommend that you get in touch with the College/Colleges you are thinking of applying to, to ask their advice. A list of all Colleges can be found through our Colleges page.

If you are in the process of choosing your Highers or Advanced Highers, you may find the ‘related documents’ pdf linked on The Subject Matters page useful. Generally, you can substitute these subjects for Advanced Higher guidance, which you may wish to have in mind when choosing your Highers also. Notable differences include Further Maths which can be substituted for an additional maths course (Maths of Mechanics and/or Statistics) at Advanced Higher; and Modern Studies, which can be considered alongside subjects like Politics and Sociology.

You can find subject requirements for A levels and IB on the course pages - generally you can substitute this for the Advanced Higher equivalent. For courses that ask for ‘Further Maths’, then it’s often helpful to take both the Mathematics Advanced Higher, and one of Mathematics of Mechanics or Statistics. Specific courses, such as Maths, have guidance on this.

When you see ‘A1 or A2’ listed, this is because Cambridge looks at the ‘band’ of the grade achieved for Scottish qualifications. The typical Cambridge offer will vary by course and can vary between Colleges too. We recommend you contact the College(s) you are considering for advice.

Subjects [AC1] Typical Offers
  • Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic
  • Archaeology
  • Architecture
  • Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
  • Classics
  • Education
  • English
  • Geography
  • History
  • History and Modern Languages
  • History and Politics
  • History of Art
  • Human, Social, and Political Sciences
  • Land Economy
  • Law
  • Linguistics
  • Modern and Mediaeval Languages
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Psychological and Behavioural Sciences
  • Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion
  • Veterinary Medicine
A1, A2, A2
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Economics
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Medicine
  • Natural Sciences
A1, A1, A2

Foundation Year

If you want to study an Arts, Humanities, or Social Sciences degree but you have not been able to study the A Levels, Highers or Advanced Highers that our degree requires, you might be eligible to apply for our Foundation Year in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. Additional information, as well as a full list of eligibility criteria, can be found on our Foundation Year profile page.

The admissions/application process

You can find detailed information about Cambridge and how to apply on our Undergraduate Study website. Applications are made via UCAS.

Student finance

Students applying to Cambridge from Scotland often have questions around student finance, and the support available to help pay for tuition and maintenance costs.

Scottish students who come to study with us will be charged the same tuition fees as other UK students. There’s lots of information on fees, and on funding available through the university on our Fees and Finance page.

Scottish students are currently eligible to apply for a loan from Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) to cover the cost of their tuition fees. There are also loans and bursaries available through SAAS to help with living costs, though the amount that you may be eligible for will vary according to your household income. These loans are only repayable after you’ve graduated, and once you are earning over the income threshold. The SAAS website has lots of information about this, and can give you an indication of how much you may be awarded for living costs. Visit our Fees and Finance page to find out more.

All UK students are also considered for the Cambridge Bursary Scheme, which is non-repayable, and awarded according to household income. For more information about this, including how much you might be eligible for and specific advice for Scottish students, please visit the Scottish Students' Income Levels and Pension Contributions | Cambridge students page.

Travelling to and from Cambridge

Most students will remain in Cambridge for the full eight weeks of term, with few occasions when they might return home out of holidays. When it comes to travel, other than if there are exceptional circumstances, the below information should usually only be relevant to the start and end of each term. This information covers typical travel options between Edinburgh and Cambridge. We know that some students from Scotland may have much longer journeys than others to get to Cambridge, but we hope that this gives some useful information that you will be able to apply to your specific circumstances. For public transport options, we have given the Edinburgh distance and times, as most routes to Cambridge from North of Edinburgh go via Edinburgh.

Driving

Driving from Edinburgh to Cambridge takes six to seven hours without severe traffic - this can be longer. It’s a fairly direct route that is mostly on the A1. From Aberdeen it is eight to nine hours; Glasgow six to seven hours; Dumfries five hours.

Train

The East Coast mainline (which goes via Aberdeen, Stirling, Edinburgh and Berwick-Upon-Tweed) is usually the quickest way to get to Cambridge, with a change at Peterborough or Stevenage. If you are on the West Coast, you may also find it easier to go via London on the West Coast line and change there. Depending on your route, taking the train can take between 5 hours 30 minutes to 6 hours 50 minutes.

Flying

If you need to get home quickly, then flying is often the quickest way to travel to Scotland. The closest airport to Cambridge that you can fly to from Edinburgh is Stansted, with budget airlines available. The flight itself is around 1 hour 30 minutes. To get to Cambridge from Stansted you can catch the train; these are frequent and take around 30 minutes.

Frequently asked questions

Do Highers play a role in the application or offer?

The short answer to this is: Yes! When you apply to Cambridge you have to declare all qualifications you are currently studying for, as well as those you have already taken (along with your results). When assessing your application, Colleges will look at your Highers, and how you did in them - which can include which Band you achieved. If you are made an offer while studying for Higher(s) alongside Advanced Highers, a grade requirement for your Higher(s) may be set as part of your offer.

If I skipped National 5s, am I still able to apply?

Yes. We are more interested in your Highers and Advanced Highers, though if there is a reason why you skipped your National 5s, it would be helpful to share this with the College you are applying to.

Do I need to take all my Advanced Highers in one sitting?

We recognise that the Scottish education system is not linear, and that students may not take three Advanced Highers in one year (although for the majority of our applicants, this is the case). You therefore do not need to take all your Advanced Highers in one sitting, though we would expect applicants to be taking at least three Advanced Highers, or a combination of two Advanced Highers and one Higher, in a year.

Does College choice matter, or do I have to apply to one of my Area Links Colleges?

There are 29 undergraduate Colleges at Cambridge, including two for mature applicants (those over 21 at the point of entry). Prospective applicants are welcome to apply to whichever College they wish; you do not need to apply to one of your Area Links Colleges. There’s lots of advice about how to pick a College on our website.

It’s important to note though that subject requirements may differ between Colleges, so double check this before making your final College choice.

What is an A1 or A2, and how do I find out if I might achieve this?

Advanced Highers and Highers are awarded by grade, but also by Band, with A1 being the highest grade and band possible. The second highest is A2. Cambridge will often set requirements by Band, so to find out if you are likely to achieve the bands required for the course you are considering, it’s best to speak to your school. We are aware that many other Universities will not ask for specific bands to be achieved; however, we ask for A1A2A2 or A1A1A2 as we have seen a strong correlation between this level of attainment and success at the University.

My school doesn’t offer three Advanced Highers / the range of Advanced Highers I can choose from is really limited. What should I do?

The majority of courses at Cambridge require three Advanced Highers, though if this is impossible then you should speak to the College(s) you are considering applying to and ask if they would accept two Advanced Highers, and an additional Higher, instead. If you are able to travel to another school or college to take a third Advanced Higher, or if you choose to self-study for this, then please do make this clear in your application as it will provide some really helpful contextual information for the College to consider when reviewing your application.

What happens if I miss my offer due to missing the band requirements?

If you have been set an offer that includes band requirements, then in order to guarantee your place at Cambridge, you need to meet those requirements. If you narrowly miss your band requirements, then you may still be accepted but this is by no means certain. If you miss your requirements significantly, and there are no extenuating circumstances to consider, then unfortunately your application will be unsuccessful. There’s more information about this on the Undergraduate Study website.

Can I work during term time?

Cambridge terms are quite short, but intense, and so undergraduates are generally encouraged not to undertake part time work during term. However, all students are welcome to work during the holidays (called vacations at Cambridge), should they wish, and there is also lots of financial support available if finances are a concern. Find more information on support available on our website.

Do I have to take my stuff home at the end of term?

As undergraduate students tend to live in College owned accommodation for the duration of their undergraduate studies, you will likely need to vacate your room between terms. Colleges are often able to provide storage if required, though this can be limited - it’s best for you to speak to your College about this in advance if it’s something that you would find helpful.

Why do you ask for threes As in Advanced Highers, when A level requirements are a maximum of A*A*A (when an A in Advanced Higher has the same UCAS points as an A* at A level)?

Cambridge doesn’t consider UCAS points when assessing applications; rather we look at academic achievement and predictions, among other things. We want all our students to excel when studying with us, and have found that this is more likely to be the case when applicants have achieved three As at Advanced Higher.