View some commonly asked questions about Online Learning at Heriot-Watt University

Professor Guy Walker, the Academic Lead for Heriot-Watt Online, answers the Top 10 questions about Online Learning at Heriot-Watt University.

General Online Learning FAQs

Can an MSc degree be completed in less than two years?

You cannot complete in less than two years as we only offer an online or distance learning MSc part-time. Realistically, the minimum study time for the MSc is two and a half years.

Can I access course material before I register for a course?

Access to course material cannot be made available unless course registration has been completed.

How long do I have to complete an online MSc Programme?

An Online Learning programme - whether at PGDip or MSc level - can be completed in no less than two years as a rule. On average, our PGDip programmes are completed in 2-3 years, while MSc programmes are completed in 2.5-7 years. Our Online Learning programmes are designed with flexibility in mind, but you must complete your studies within 8 years (as an MSc student) or 6 years (if a Postgraduate Diploma student).

How long do I have to complete an individual course (module)?

You will have up to two years to complete an assessment after you register for a course.

How many hours per week do I need to spend studying?

Each individual course is designed to take 150 study hours to complete, but every individual student is different and this time can vary. N.B. A dissertation project take approximately 600 and 300 study hours respectively.

Is an online qualification equivalent to an on-campus qualification?

Yes, any programme you complete as an online learning student gives you the exact same qualification as your on-campus peers. For example, if you undertake an MSc in Construction Project Management as an online learning student, you will be equally as qualified as someone who undertakes an MSc in Construction Project Management at our Edinburgh or Dubai campuses.

Will it state 'Online Learning' or 'Distance Learning' on my certificate?

No, your certificate will only state the qualification you have achieved, for example ‘Postgraduate Diploma in Civil Engineering' or ‘Master of Science in Real Estate Investment and Finance'.

What is the difference between PgDip and MSc level?

Both PgDip and MSc students complete eight taught courses. To be awarded an MSc, students must then also complete a dissertation or project.

What are the semester start and finish dates?

Semesters run for 12 weeks excluding the assessments (14 weeks with assessments). The dates for each semesters can be found on the Academic Calendar. Most online MSc degrees have two student intakes per academic year (September and January), but a small number also have a third student intake in April or May.

Application FAQs

Is there a deadline for applications?

Yes. Deadlines vary each year, but they fall approximately eight weeks before the start of the semester. Applications received after the deadline will still be considered but we cannot guarantee entry for the upcoming intake. Therefore the offer of a place to study may be made for the following intake. Contact the Online Student Support Team for further information.

What happens after I receive my acceptance letter from Heriot-Watt online?

If you have received an unconditional offer, please respond as soon as possible. We will email you with instructions on how to register nearer the start date.

What is the deadline for uploading supporting documents to a conditional application?

We recommend that you fulfil any conditions on your offer no later than six weeks before the semester start date. Please refer to the academic calendar to view semester start dates. 

When do I enrol, register and pay for courses?

Course registration and payment is due a couple of weeks before the semester start date. However, applicants will be emailed with payment and enrolment instructions about six weeks before the semester start date.

Course registration and payment FAQs

Can I start my studies or register for courses at any time?

No, there are specific entry points (intakes) in mid-September and early January each year. Some online programmes also offer a May intake.

Can I start my studies or register for courses in the next academic year?

Students should only register for courses for the current academic year (which runs from September to August).

Can I cancel a course after I have registered?

Students have until the end of Week 3 of each semester to notify the Online Student Support Team if they want to cancel a course that they are enrolled for during that semester.

After the end of Week 3, students are committed to completing all parts of the assessment and they will be marked as absent for any parts of assessment not completed and may lose a re-assessment opportunity.

As students cannot cancel a course beyond the end of Week 3, they should carefully consider at the beginning of each semester how much time they will have available for their studies.

How do I pay for my degree programme?

Your programme consists of a number of courses (normally eight) and research projects or a dissertation and you pay for each one as and when you register.

The methods of payment are credit or debit card, banker’s draft, UK cheque or bank transfer.

Please note that bank transfers can take several weeks to be allocated within the University, especially near the beginning of each semester, so we recommend using the online payment system as the quickest and simplest method.

We cannot give a student access to the course material until the payment has been received in the University's bank account.

How many courses can I study or register for per semester?

We recommend studying at most two courses per semester, the same as a part-time student on campus. If you wish to, you can take just one course per semester, or if you need to, you can take a break and study no courses in a particular semester, but you should bear in mind that you must complete your studies within eight years on an MSc programme and six years on a PgDip programme.

Exam and assessment FAQs

Are exam fees included in course fees?

Yes, the taught course fee includes the course and exam fee.

What are the minimum grade requirements to pass a course at MSc level?

To pass a taught course at MSc level, all of the following is required:

  • Grade D or above
  • An overall average of Grade C (50%) or above over all qualifying courses
  • Grade C (50%) or above for all dissertations/projects

Note that in addition to the above, students studying MSc Petroleum Engineering and MSc Applied Petroleum Geoscience must gain a Grade C or above for at least six taught courses and no less than a Grade D for at most two taught courses.

What are the minimum grade requirements to pass a course at PG Diploma level?

To pass a taught course at PG Diploma level, the following is required:

  • Grade E or above
  • An overall average of Grade D (40%) or above over all qualifying courses

Note: in addition to the above, students studying a PG Diploma Petroleum Engineering and PG Diploma Applied Petroleum Geoscience must gain a Grade D for at least six taught courses and a Grade E for at most two taught courses.

Where do online students sit exams?

Exams are taken in exam centres and are written exams, not online. They are taken under normal exam conditions with an invigilator present. When registering online for exams, students are required to choose which exam location suits them best from a dropdown list.

Please note that we cannot guarantee matching every student’s exact location, but we have over 450 exam centres around the world so students often don’t have to travel far.

Fees and financial support FAQs

Do you offer scholarships to online learning students?

Unfortunately, the University does not offer much in the way of financial support or loans for online study. Please note that students only pay for courses as they register for them and students can control their speed of study. Please refer to the Fees and Funding webpage for more information on funding and scholarships.

Where can I access information about online course and assessment fees?

A table outlining Heriot-Watt’s most up-to-date online tuition and assessment fees is given in section A5.2.3 of the Heriot-Watt Online Student Handbook.

Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and teaching FAQs

Are online students at a disadvantage by not being near the University library?

Online programmes are set up so you are not disadvantaged by not being able to access physical books. We offer a large range of books and journals electronically, or the course leaders will ensure sections of text are available on the VLE.

Do online students receive the same quality of teaching as on-campus students?

Yes, our online students have exactly the same learning outcomes as our full-time on-campus students. They are also taught by the same expert academics.

Do I have to be online while I study?

You don’t need to be online for all your studies. You can print or download course notes for reading offline but the majority of the work, such as research, will be carried out online.

What is the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and how does it work?

The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is designed to deliver learning materials to students online. This platform is an important part of Heriot-Watt Online and our strategic approach to flexible learning as it hosts innovative and engaging resources. The VLE allows you to plan and manage lessons, access digital learning materials and engage with your academic.