Good University Guide 2023

Heriot-Watt University

National rank

Firsts / 2:1s
Completion rate

Key stats

Teaching quality
Student experience
Research quality
Graduate prospects
Heriot-Watt University

Contact details


Edinburgh , EH14 4AS,

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Heriot-Watt University is home to the UK’s first National Robotarium, due to open in autumn 2022. The purpose-built facility on the Riccarton campus, a joint partnership with the University of Edinburgh, will explore how robotics and autonomous systems can address real-life issues. Delivering research and support for business, as well as data skills and new undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, the aim is to be a leading innovation hub for the practical application of these technologies, to drive economic growth and transform lives worldwide. 

The new centre augments existing facilities which include laboratories in ocean systems, human robotic interaction and assisted living. The recently-opened Grid (Global Research, Innovation and Discovery) centre has collaborative learning spaces which feature augmented reality, virtual reality and gaming studios. Its enterprise hub promotes emerging technology and inventions, where staff and students are encouraged to pursue the commercial potential of creative ideas. 

Elsewhere at the Edinburgh campus, the library’s £6 million refurbishment has increased capacity to more than 1,000 study spaces. A virtual learning environment has been introduced, bringing online learning materials to complement in-person teaching. The primary teaching model is on-campus, with students expected to participate in learning opportunities in person — albeit while reaping the benefits of online resources and support, connecting with Heriot-Watt students globally and getting the best out of self-directed study. 

Named after George Heriot and James Watt, two giants of industry and commerce, Heriot-Watt began as the world’s first institute for mechanics in 1821. As well as the main campus the university has a site in the Scottish Borders, 35 miles south of Edinburgh in Galashiels, which specialises in textiles, fashion and design. An Orkney campus in Stromness caters exclusively for postgraduates and specialises in renewable energy. A former winner of our International University of the Year award, Heriot-Watt also has campuses in Malaysia and Dubai — the latter with the capacity for up to 4,000 students. The university’s Go Global programme offers students the chance to move between campuses for a semester, a year, or longer with courses following the same programme and academic criteria on each campus.

The prospects for graduates are improving, reflecting a long focus on graduate employability at Heriot-Watt. In our analysis of the latest Graduate Outcomes survey, published in summer 2022, the university climbs ten places to 36= with 79.3 of students in highly skilled jobs or postgraduate study 15 months after leaving Heriot-Watt. Many degree programmes include industry placements or projects and carry professional accreditation. The university teams up with about 200 big companies each year for employability projects. 

Options for graduate apprenticeships (known as degree apprenticeships outside Scotland) are broader here than at most other Scottish universities, with 500 students enrolled. The university plans to add 220 more places across the nine existing programmes: engineering, design and manufacturing, IT management for business, IT software development, civil engineering, built environment (quantity surveying), business management, data science, and instrumentation measurement and control.

A new degree in sport and exercise science welcomed its first students in September 2022, and an accelerated three-year version begins in the 2023-24 academic year. Enrolments were up by 19 per cent in 2021, year-on-year, although applications have dipped a little each year for the past six admissions cycles.

Rated silver in the Teaching Excellence Framework, Heriot-Watt drew praise for course design that was “directly informed by research activity”. 

Physics was a strength for Heriot-Watt in the results of the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021), with 97 per cent of the university’s submission in the subject rated world-leading or internationally excellent (the top categories). Mathematical sciences; architecture, built environment and planning; and engineering — where Heriot-Watt made joint submissions with the University of Edinburgh — also did well. In our research quality index, based on sector-wide improvements on the previous national assessment in 2014, the university has dropped out of the top 30 to rank 44th.

In our analysis of the latest National Student Survey, published in summer 2022, Heriot-Watt is in the bottom ten for satisfaction with teaching quality (128th). It has also tumbled a startling 83 places for how students feel about the wider undergraduate experience to rank 116=. The university’s “globally connected learning approach”, combining on-campus “learning events” with online provision, appears not to have been received as well as Heriot-Watt may have hoped.

A generous bursary system makes financial awards to about 30 per cent of the intake of students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with awards of up to £3,100 per year towards living costs for students recruited from low-income homes. Students living in Scotland may be eligible for the HWU Bursary of £1,000 per year, while minimum entry offers are made wherever possible to students drawn from deprived areas or who have been in care. 

The main Riccarton campus hosts Oriam, Scotland’s national centre for performance in many sports, where world-class facilities are available to Heriot-Watt students. The £33 million complex features a Hampden Park replica pitch, outdoor synthetic and grass pitches, a 12-court sports hall, a 3G indoor pitch and a fitness suite, plus medical facilities. 

All first-years who apply by the housing deadline are guaranteed one of 1,823 spaces in the conveniently placed Edinburgh halls of residence. Regular bus services link the 380-acre parkland campus to the city centre’s cultural hotspots and thriving nightlife.

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Category Score Rank
Ranking - 57= (30=)
Teaching quality 66.5 128th
Student experience 66.7 116th=
Research quality 48.7 44th
Ucas entry points 172 13th
Graduate prospects 79.3 36th=
Firsts and 2:1s 81.9 38th
Completion rate 86 61st
Student-staff ratio 18 95th=
World ranking - 281= (270=)

Vital statistics











Applications/places 8,745/1,650
Applications/places ratio 5.3:1
Overall offer rate 84.3%


Places in accommodation 1,823
Accommodation costs £154 - £215
Accommodation contact


Scots/EU fees £0 - £1,820
Fees (placement year) £910
Fees (overseas year) £910
Fees (international) £16,000 - £20,584
Finance website
Graduate salaries £25,000


Sport points/rank 699.5, 48th
Sport website

Social inclusion and student mix

Social Inclusion Ranking 10
State schools (non-grammar) admissions 85.3%
Grammar school admissions 4.4%
Independent school admissions 10.3%
Ethnic minority students (all) 13.2%
Black achievement gap -18.5%
First generation students 33.1%
Deprived areas 13.4%
Mature students 23.4%
EU students 4.7%
Other overseas students 15.5%

Student satisfaction with teaching quality

Physics and astronomy 76.4%
Chemical engineering 76.1%
Aeronautical and manufacturing engineering 75%
Town and country planning and landscape 73.7%
Mathematics 73.1%
Economics 72.3%
Electrical and electronic engineering 71.7%
Biological sciences 71%
Civil engineering 70.8%
General engineering 69.1%
Chemistry 68.7%
Psychology 68.1%
Building 67.8%
Computer science 66.8%
Accounting and finance 63.8%
Mechanical engineering 62.8%
Business, management and marketing 61.4%
Art and design 56.5%