College students and mature students

College students

College students make up around significant part of our student body each year and are studying a diverse range of our degree courses across the whole University. Most students will use an HNC and HND qualification to gain advanced entry into years two or three of our degree courses, but these qualifications can also be used to start in year one of many of our degree courses which you may not consider to be a direct progression from your chosen HNC or HND.

If you are considering an HNC or HND route into university, but you are unsure of your possible progression routes, the Pathways website is a great research tool to use. This app has been designed to help you discover what HNC and HND qualification will give you advanced entry opportunities into years two or three of your chosen degree course.

Heriot-Watt offers a wide range of support to college students both pre- and post- entry to university. You can find out more on our Student Support webpages. This can include help with advice on finances, childcare and making the transition into university. We have also put together some guides to help give you more information, one for college students and one for mature students. These guides have more details about what you need to know about coming to university. Please see the key documents section below and click on the guide most appropriate to you.


The widening participation team host a number of events throughout the year to help support and advise college and mature students whilst they are considering their options into higher education. You can find more information on our Events webpage.
If you are interested in finding out about what it is like to study here at Heriot-Watt, you can watch some of our recent subject-specific webinars on YouTube:

College to University: Psychology

College to University: Civil Engineering

College to University: Business

College to University: Biology

College to University: Architectural Engineering

College to University: Accounting

Mature students

Female student in a language booth

Mature students can make up to 30% of our student population each year. We realise that most of our mature students will need to use college qualifications to get into university. This includes completing HNC, HND qualifications, or an access course such as those run by SWAP. We also know that working out what you need to get, and which qualification would be best, can often be daunting for those who have been out of education for some time. That is why we encourage any mature students thinking about studying at Heriot-Watt to utilise the following research tools:

  • Heriot-Watt is an active member of SWAP East which provides access courses tailored to help mature students' progress into university. These courses are designed specifically for anyone who has been out of education for some time and who has few or no formal qualifications. You can find out more by using the ‘possible degree progressions' search engine on the SWAP East website To find the right access course for you. Alternatively, you get in touch with SWAP East directly on, or ask us for advice by email
  • Pathways is a website that helps you research agreed articulated routes that you can take from college to degree level study. If you wish to study at university, there are different learning pathways you can take, and pathways has been designed as an easy to use tool to identify how to get there. 
  • Get in touch with us. Our widening participation team will work with you, and the university admissions team, to work through all your options, so just get in touch with us at

Press 'c' on your keyboard to turn YouTube auto-captions (subtitles) on and off.


Video transcript:

Beverley: I was really nervous about the thought of going to University as an older student. I mean, I was 38 by the time I started uni and I was like "oh, what am I doing going here with all these kids" you know, but it was just fantastic. I needn't have worried; it was brilliant! I found like-minded people and you know, other mums, that were all there for the same thing: they really wanted to be a primary teacher as well and and we just sort of bonded. It was great.

Kerriann: Not everybody knows what they want to do when they're in high school or even after they left high school. I didn't really know fully what I wanted to do until I'd had lots of life experiences and bringing life experiences to the table has really just helped enhance my whole journey.

Tony: I knew that I wanted to get a degree but I didn't know how to really go about it or like, what the process of doing it was, you know?

Karen: My aim was always to be a nurse and I've progressed that and I'm now three years on, just about to revalidate.

Melanie: I wanted to be a forensic scientist but I think doing a science degree it completely opened so many doors. I'm in a better place than I ever imagined I would be though.

Kerriann: I am working as a primary school teacher and that's exactly what I set out to achieve. Where I started this, the SWAP course.

Karen: When you're at college how did you feel about going to uni?

Melanie: It was absolutely terrifying. In college it was a very small, close, and very personal but University is a big place. Once I got to University and I realised that I'm on a journey and I'm there for a reason and with an end goal. Their lecturers and the staff were just brilliant.

Tony: It's not going to be easy at the start. You're going to have nerves, you're going to have questions, but that's completely to be expected.

Beverley: It's not like at school. At school, you're told what to do and when to do it, sort of thing. You've got to manage your own time and make sure you read everything you have to read. You've got to go out there and find the things you've got to read it's not all this time to do sort of thing.

Kerriann: You end up having such a community, like a little family along the way so for so many years, you've developed so many close friendships that you'll keep on for life. It's never too late to go into higher education, you know,  because a lot of people are stuck in their jobs that they and they think there's no other options or it's they can't do because they've got children, I've got two children myself you can definitely do it. I went to do the SWAP access course when my daughter was one and yeah, it was challenging going back into education, but I've never looked back and it's been the best thing for me and my children.

Karen: So what did you get out of University?

Melanie: I got a completely different life out of the University.

Tony: SWAP course has enabled me to actually see a future for myself, not just working job to job you know.

Beverley: it was definitely all worth it. All the all the hard work was definitely worth it. I wouldn't change a thing.

Karen: I've become more independent than I was before. I was always leaning on other things to help me through but now I've gone and I had to do the work myself. It was only me that could qualify and get to where I am, and now I am where I want to be which is helping people.

Tony: I'm a lot happier than I was previously and enabled me to get a good decent amount of education out of it too.

We also understand that often mature students can have significant relevant work experience, as well as qualifications, that may be relevant to the degree they want to study. If you can show you have successfully completed some recent study, we may be able to relax some of our entry requirements depending on your work experience.

For instance, it is possible, in some cases, to get entry into a postgraduate course with a relevant qualification and work experience, for example:

  • HND plus 4 years of relevant post qualification experience
  • HNC plus 6 years of relevant post qualification experience
  • 8 years relevant experience at a suitable level plus either interview or passes in two modules.

If you think you have relevant work experience that would help you get into a degree course, then get in touch with our admissions team to find out more, you can email them at Each application is considered individually with ability, experience and potential taken into consideration.

Associate Partnership Programme – An alternative degree pathway

In addition to the articulation agreements mentioned above we also have a number of Associate Partnership degree courses set up at local colleges. This means that you study the first two years of your degree at college and the final two years of your degree at university. Throughout your course you are both a college student and a university student meaning you can take advantage of all the benefits and resources on offer from both institutions. You will complete an HNC and HND, and those who successfully complete their first two years are guaranteed a place in third year at university.

Below is a list of our partnership programmes:

  • BSc (Hons) Computer Science – Edinburgh College and Fife College
  • BEng / MEng Chemical Engineering – with Forth Valley College
  • BEng / MEng Electrical and Electronic Engineering – with Edinburgh College and Forth Valley College
  • BEng / MEng Mechanical Engineering – with Edinburgh College and Forth Valley College
  • BA (Hons) Design for Textiles (Textiles) – with Glasgow Clyde College
  • BA (Hons) Design for Textiles (Weave) – with Glasgow Clyde College
  • BSc (Hons) Fashion Technology – with Glasgow Clyde College
  • MA (Hons) International Business Management, BBA (Hons) Business Administration– through the Business pathway with Borders College