Programmes of study which lead to advanced qualifications such as those at National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 5 or 6 and above, such as degrees and diplomas. These are usually offered in higher education institutions (HEIs) such as universities, but may also form part of the provision of further education (FE) colleges, as in the case of foundation degrees. The higher education sector is largely comprised of universities and university colleges, and is distinct from the further education sector in terms of funding and purpose. The provision of higher education, however, is an area in which there is some overlap, since HEIs may accredit FE colleges to deliver some higher‐level, vocationally related courses.
In Scotland higher education institutions include thirteen universities, the Open University in Scotland, one university college, two colleges of higher education, two art schools, one conservatoire, and the Scottish Agricultural College. The universities developed in three stages: the ancient universities (St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh) date from the 15th and 16th centuries; four others (Dundee, Strathclyde, Heriot‐Watt, Stirling) achieved university status in the 1960s; and the newest group (Glasgow Caledonian, Napier, Paisley, Robert Gordon, Abertay) achieved university status in the 1990s. Students can be accepted to university on completion of their Higher examinations at the end of Year S5; however, Scottish students wishing to attend an English university may often go on to complete Advanced Highers in Year S6.