Where should I study physics in Scotland?

  • Helena Kudiabor
  • Nov 08 2023

Doing your Scottish Highers? You’re probably thinking about life after school, and your next steps. If you’re interested in pursuing physics at university, there are a number of amazing institutions in Scotland.


University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh is part of the prestigious Russell Group, and is a leader in science research. Lecturers at the university helped lead the discovery of carbon dioxide and chloroform anaesthesia, and even developed the first automated industrial assembly robot. The university is also particularly passionate about supporting the wider Edinburgh community, with their campaign to increase ethnic diversity among teachers in Scotland and their dedicated climate change institute (Scotland’s leading climate action hub).

So, what kind of physics degrees does the University of Edinburgh offer? There’s a general physics degree and a physics degree with an integrated master’s. There’s also some more specialised courses, such as their acoustics and music technology course, where you’ll apply physics theory to design music software. If you come from a disadvantaged background, the university provides widening access offers (grades below the average) to recognise the challenges you may have faced.

University of Glasgow

Another leading Russell Group university, physics students at the University of Glasgow can make use of their university's observatory and planetarium equipment, and learn from lecturers who work for CERN and LIGO. Physics students have the option to customise their degree, with ‘physics and computer science’ and ‘chemical physics’ just two of the options available depending on which modules you select. No matter which subject combination you study, in your final years you’ll be able to complete an independent research project and learn more about the technological applications of physics.

At the University of Glasgow, there’s always opportunities to learn more about physics. The university has a Physics society and an Astronomy society, who organise a range of events and discussions. The astronomy society even organises a camping trip to Galloway International Dark Sky Park, where the extremely dark night skies make for breathtaking stargazing.  

University of the Highlands and Islands

Studying at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) allows you to have study sessions with a view, as it overlooks the most stunning mountains and beaches of Scotland. UHI is actually made up of 12 colleges and universities (spread across the highlands and islands, as the name suggests), meaning there’s a broad range of courses to choose from. For example, they offer a HNC in Sound Production, with the option to continue your studies and gain a degree in audio engineering. There’s even an online Professional Development Award in Renewable Energy Systems on offer, where you’ll learn from key players in the development of renewable systems in Scotland. Similarly, UHI’s marine engineering HNC allows students to visit local shipping companies and try out state of the art simulations equipment.

University of St Andrews

The University of St Andrews is the fourth oldest university in the English speaking world, so they have an extensive history of physics lecturing and research. Today, their research focuses on three key areas: astrophysics, condensed matter physics and photonics. Their findings are used to help improve the world we live in, with current lecturers developing sensors to detect explosives and pesticides, and even monitor volcanoes. Furthermore, the university organises a number of initiatives to teach the general public about the wonders of science, including open nights at their observatory and cell block science (relaxed science learning for prisoners and their families)

If you’re struggling to decide whether to study physics or another subject, the University of St Andrews offers a range of joint honours physics degrees, such as maths and physics and philosophy and physics. They’re also committed to providing additional support to students from underrepresented groups, with their Gateway to Physics and Astronomy programme. Scottish students who live in an area of deprivation start off their degree with unique modules just for the gateway cohort. In these intimate classes, you’ll be able to further develop fundamental physics and general study skills. 

University of Strathclyde

As the only university to have won Times Higher Education University of the Year twice, studying at the University of Strathclyde is clearly a great option. One of the best things about the university is the range of courses they offer. If you know that you’d like to become a physicist they offer a ‘Physics with advanced research’ degree, while aspiring physics teachers can study ‘Physics with teaching.’

Plus, if you’re more interested in the practical side of physics, the university offers a variety of engineering degrees. How about naval architecture with ocean engineering, sports design engineering, or aero-mechanical engineering? The university’s research in emerging areas of physics, from neuroscience to optical technologies, means graduates are well prepared for the modern world.