Mature students

Deciding to return to education after a break can be both exciting and daunting. The University considers you a mature (or independent) student if you have been out of full-time education for more than three years prior to your application. There are a large number of potential entry routes for mature students, and we recommend that you contact the Access team by emailing on lifelonglearning@st-andrews.ac.uk if you are a mature student thinking of applying to the University.

Choosing your degree

If you have decided to apply to university as a mature or independent student, the first decision should be the course you wish to study and the university you hope to attend. It is important to familiarise yourself with the application process, including any relevant deadlines. Planning is crucial, and you should give yourself enough time to prepare a competitive application.

All students should check the course and Faculty requirements using the Undergraduate Prospectus or course search before starting their application. However, mature students should be aware that we do not always require traditional school qualifications to extend an offer of admission. An offer may be made on the basis of a large range of accepted college-based qualifications, and so it is highly recommended that students contact the Access team before starting an application.

Regardless of your qualifications, all successful mature student applicants will be expected to present evidence of recent academic study and an ability to achieve good grades.

Making offers to mature students

Mature students should be aware that whilst evidence of the potential for academic success is a key part of an application, the Admissions officers consider a wide range of factors other than just the qualifications gained. Of particular importance are the UCAS personal statement and references; you can find more information about what the Admissions officers are looking for in the how to apply section.

No applicant is guaranteed admission on the basis of grades or qualifications alone, and especially in regards to applications from mature students, each application is considered on its individual merits. You may find that an actual offer from the University is higher or lower than the information outlined below. All applicants must also satisfy the Faculty entrance requirements at Standard Grade or GCSE level, although normally these are satisfied within the SWAP Access Course curriculums.

Once you have an offer, you can apply for a scholarship or bursary. Find out more about fees and funding for mature students.


Entrance routes for mature students

Scottish Wider Access Partnership (SWAP) Access Course

SWAP access courses are designed for adults who have been out of formal education for a number of years (normally three) and who now wish to prepare themselves for going on to higher education. Applicants must normally offer an A profile on the college-assessed SWAP Access Course which is benchmarked at SCQF Level 6 (the same level as SQA Highers). Candidates are strongly encouraged to take one or two relevant external Higher exams which accompany the SWAP Access Course. For applicants to degree programmes in the School of Physics and Astronomy, candidates must offer a minimum of AB at Higher grade to include Mathematics and Physics. Candidates under serious consideration are likely to be interviewed.

Higher National Certificate

A Higher National Certificate (HNC) is acceptable for Admissions purposes for entry to year one of a four-year undergraduate Honours degree. The HNC should have a minimum of 96 credits at SCQF Level 7 or NCF Level 4, and the content must be relevant to the degree you intend to apply for. Applicants are expected to have a Graded Unit at 'A' to be eligible for admission. Applicants presenting an HNC must also satisfy the appropriate Faculty entry requirements. Candidates under serious consideration are likely to be interviewed and asked to supply one assessed item of coursework in advance of the interview.

Higher National Certificate: Applied Sciences (Pathway to Medicine)

Perth College and the Medical School of the University of St Andrews have a unique Memorandum of Understanding whereby up to five HNC Applied Sciences (Pathway to Medicine) students are guaranteed entry to the BSc (Hons) Medicine degree programme at the University of St Andrews, provided they pass the HNC and achieve 70% in particular units. Following completion of the Medical Science degree at St Andrews, three-year clinical placements are available in hospitals in the following locations: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester. All candidates will be interviewed and must sit the UKCAT (United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test). This access course is specifically designed for adults who have been out of full-time education for three or more years and who have not previously graduated from a degree programme.

For more information please contact Perth College Admissions on 0845 270 1177 or contact the Course Team Leader, Dr Robert Boyd: Robert.boyd@uhi.perth.ac.uk.

Higher National Diplomas

A Higher National Diploma (HND) will usually satisfy the entry requirements for entry to year one of a four-year undergraduate Honours degree programme. The HND should be in a subject relevant to the degree being applied for and with an AB profile on the Graded Units. In exceptional circumstances, a relevant HND will be considered for entry into the second year of a degree programme. Applicants pursuing this route must achieve AA in the Graded Units plus submit two items of assessed work and attend for interview. HND qualifications will not normally be considered for third year entry. Applicants presenting an HND must also satisfy the appropriate Faculty entry requirements.

BTEC National Diploma (Level 3)

This is a unit-based qualification that focuses on particular aspects of employment within the vocational sector. As such, the award offers a qualification which can extend study and provide vocational emphasis for learners. Candidates presenting with a subject-relevant BTEC National Diploma (Level 3) will be expected to offer three Distinction grades for admissions purposes. School leavers would normally be expected to progress to AS and A-Level qualifications or equivalent following their GCSE examinations rather than a BTEC National Diploma as it has a strong vocational rather than academic emphasis. Candidates under serious consideration are likely to be interviewed and asked to supply one assessed item of coursework in advance of any proposed interview.

Access to HE Diploma

Candidates need to achieve at least 60 credits with a minimum of 45 credits at level 3. Distinctions are required in the majority of the level 3 credits, the number of which will depend on the course choice.

Flexible study

Most St Andrews students are working towards a full-time degree by daytime study. However, an increasingly large number of students are now studying part-time, either during the daytime or in the evenings. Some students start their degree programmes by studying part-time, and then later become full-time students. Other students start as full-time students, and then move to part-time study because this better fits their personal circumstances. If you intend to enrol on the part-time evening degree, we may even be able to give you credit for existing qualifications.

If you are thinking of applying to University after a significant period of time (typically over three years), we recommend you consider undertaking four SQA Highers or three A-Levels in relevant academic subjects. These qualifications are internationally recognised and are presented by the majority of our applicants. They have the added advantage in that each subject is graded A,B,C etc and so your academic achievement can easily be recognised by Admissions officers and you can benchmark your success against your fellow students. Highers and A-Levels are taught in many FE and Sixth Form Colleges across the country.

Find out more about flexible study options.