Heriot-Watt was founded in 1821, making it among the oldest higher education institutions in the UK. In 1966, the then Heriot-Watt College, was granted university status by Royal Charter, becoming Heriot-Watt University. It is a university with a highly unusual international profile and with a particular (but not exclusive) concentration on areas of science, engineering, technology and business.

Heriot-Watt’s world-class research and teaching have always been professionally relevant and it produces highly employable and innovative graduates with a strong professional orientation. Throughout the current academic year, the University, led by the Court, will be developing an exciting new Strategic Plan for the period 2018 to 2025. The University’s current Strategic Plan (2013-18) is available.

An international university

The University intends to build on its reputation as a top international university, supporting the development of Heriot-Watt as an "international university with Scottish roots". In 2017, the University won the accolade of being named the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 'International University of the year'.

The University has overseas campuses in Dubai and Malaysia. In Scotland, the University operates over three campuses: the main campus based in Edinburgh; the Scottish Borders Campus in Galashiels which is home to the School of Textiles & Design; and the Orkney Campus, which specialises in renewable energy. One-third of Heriot-Watt's students studying at campuses in Scotland come from outside of the UK, one of the highest proportions of overseas students of any UK university. The University currently has approximately 9,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students enrolled at its Scottish campuses. Most of the University’s students (over 19,000) study on programmes outside of the UK, either at one of our overseas campuses, independently by distance learning, or with one of our many approved learning partners around the world.

Excellence in research

Heriot-Watt is a research-led university with a distinctive subject portfolio focused on the creation and dissemination of knowledge in areas of significant economic and social impact. The University's research spans the fundamental to the applied through an interdisciplinary approach to knowledge creation and enterprise. This is strengthened through strategic collaborations and alliances with other internationally leading institutions around the world and with business, industry and public sector users of our research outputs or knowledge exchange.

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, Heriot-Watt University rose to 33rd position in the UK overall, and in terms of 3* and top 4* gradings for research Heriot-Watt is ranked 22nd in the UK and 3rd in Scotland. For the REF measure of ‘Impact’ i.e. the benefit that the University’s research brings to society at large, Heriot-Watt ranks 22nd in the UK and 2nd in Scotland.  In REF terms the University sits amongst the top in the UK in the categories of General Engineering, Architecture/Building Environment/Planning and Mathematical Sciences.

Excellence in learning and teaching and the student experience

The University’s most recent Enhancement-Led Institutional Review (ELIR) by the QAA was concluded in March 2015.  The University has received the highest possible judgement of "effective arrangements for managing academic standards and the student learning experience.  These arrangements are likely to continue to be effective in the future."

In 2017 the University was a voluntary participant in the first Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and was awarded a Silver Award. Over the next few years, the University will be focusing on a range of investments aimed at positioning the University to achieve a TEF Gold Award.

Read more about the University’s rankings for learning and teaching and the student experience.

Capital developments

In recent years the University’s Financial Plans have incorporated well-defined capital investment in support of our Strategic Plan. These have included further student residences at the Edinburgh Campus, the creation of the Sir Charles Lyell Centre as a Centre for Earth and Marine Technology, the National Performance Centre for Sport (Oriam Centre) and continued investment in information systems.

More recently, our Financial Plan has provided for investment in the estate and information systems infrastructure of the Scottish campuses to support future growth. Investments are under way to support growth in student numbers through provision of high quality learning and study spaces, and in academic staff through the provision of new flexible research space.

Major areas of capital investment are planned for the period ahead. For example, jointly with the University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt has recently been successful in securing major UK and Scottish Government funding to establish a national Robotarium as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

Financial performance

The University’s annual accounts and financial statements for the financial year 2015/16 are available.

The annual accounts and financial statements for financial year 2016/17 are currently under preparation and will be available shortly.


The University's shared values are embodied in all of its endeavours. These are:

  • Pursuing Excellence
  • Shaping the Future
  • Outward Looking
  • Pride and Belonging
  • Valuing and Respecting Everyone