Good University Guide 2023

University of the West of Scotland

National rank

Firsts / 2:1s
Completion rate

Key stats

Teaching quality
Student experience
Research quality
Graduate prospects
University of the West of Scotland

Contact details


Paisley Campus, Paisley, PA1 2BE,

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The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) — founded in 2007 with bases in Paisley, Lanarkshire, Dumfries, Ayr and London — is one of Scotland’s youngest universities as well as one of its largest, with about 22,000 students.  UWS is one of Scotland’s most successful universities in widening access and far exceeds the Scottish government’s access targets. Its exemplary record on widening participation continues, the latest figures show.

UWS recruits the highest number of students in Scotland from nonselective state schools (98.7 per cent) and the most who are the first in their immediate family to go to university (48.3 per cent). Almost three in ten (29.9 per cent) come from the most underrepresented areas in higher education and almost six in ten students were aged over-21 when they enrolled (59.6 per cent and the highest proportion in Scotland again). Overall, UWS ranks second only to Abertay in our Scottish social inclusion index. 

The university’s admissions policy opens the door to degrees by asking the minimum entry requirements of applicants who are care experienced, carers or estranged from their family, who come from deprived areas or who have participated in an access programme. At UWS a contextualised approach to applications is the norm rather than the exception. 

Financial assistance supports the widening access agenda. UWS budgets £1.1 million in childcare funds to help eligible student parents meet childcare costs that might otherwise stand in their way of coming to university. Another £1.1 million is budgeted for “discretionary funds” (to help eligible students meet their basic costs of living while studying). 

In the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings for 2022, which measure universities’ progress in delivering against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UWS places second in Scotland and tenth in the UK for its success at reducing inequalities (SDG 10). It is first in Scotland and fourth in the UK for SDG 8: decent work and economic growth. 

Headquarters are at the Paisley campus, while at the Ayr site £81 million of investment has added facilities including a prizewinning library shared with Scotland’s Rural College. The Dumfries campus shares an 85-acre parkland site with the University of Glasgow and Dumfries and Galloway College. 

The UWS School of Health, Nursing and Midwifery is the largest in Scotland and the launch of a healthcare simulation centre at the Lanarkshire campus has boosted provision. There has also been an expansion to the London Docklands base, which offers professionally-focused programmes in areas including business, health, project management and accounting. 

A 19-place rise in our National Student Survey-derived measure for teaching quality shows improvement in some areas of student satisfaction — at a time when UWS moves to a hybrid model of on-campus learning activities together with flexible online resources. Yet UWS has dropped further outside the top 100 for students’ assessment of the wider undergraduate experience. An increase in the staff-to-student ratio has also contributed to its 12-place fall down our academic ranking this year. 

With 70.7 per cent of graduates in highly skilled jobs or further study 15 months on from their degrees, UWS places in the top 80 UK universities for graduate prospects. In a new employability-focused initiative the university has rolled out academic, professional and personal development (APPD) modules across undergraduate programmes. These have been designed to help students achieve success on their degrees, plan their futures and develop into professionals. The university has also appointed an entrepreneur, Yekemi Otaru, as its new chancellor.

Students on the university’s music programmes are being given opportunities to develop their careers via UWS’s new record label, Damfino Records, which is backed by Jim Prime from Deacon Blue and Paul McGeechan from Love and Money, who are lecturers on the music courses. 

UWS also offers five graduate apprenticeships (known as degree apprenticeships in the rest of the UK), spanning business and management; civil engineering; early learning and childcare; engineering design and manufacture; and software development. It hopes to increase the number on courses to 400. 

The university’s Institute of Clinical Exercise and Health Science is responsible for some of its leading research spanning sport and exercise science, coaching and broader health challenges nationally and internationally. UWS became Celtic Football Club’s first Youth Academy sports science partner in 2020, a relationship that provided UWS research students the chance to support elite youth football development. Since then it has announced a new partnership with Celtic Football Club’s Women’s first-team as well as made new ties with Motherwell and Hamilton Academical women’s teams. 

Sport and exercise sciences, leisure and tourism led the way for UWS in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework, with 71 per cent of the work in this area judged as world-leading or internationally excellent. Research within physics was another of the university’s strongest suits. Overall though, other universities performed better, resulting in a 19-place decline for UWS in our research quality index this year. 

Students have free membership to UWS-operated gym and fitness facilities, and most courses leave Wednesday afternoons free from classes to encourage students to take part in sport and social activities. The students’ union, which has venues across the three main campuses, was crowned University Students’ Association of the Year at the NUS Scotland awards. 

Most students live at home, which means the university’s 196 student bedrooms at the Ayr campus and 491 at the Paisley site are usually enough for all first-years who want to live in to be allocated a space, although there is no formal accommodation guarantee. If UWS properties are full students are referred to nearby accommodation providers such as Craigie House at Ayr and MyPad Paisley.

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Category Score Rank
Ranking - 122= (110=)
Teaching quality 74.9 71st=
Student experience 67 112th=
Research quality 19.2 117th
Ucas entry points 139 43rd=
Graduate prospects 70.7 79th
Firsts and 2:1s 74.2 91st
Completion rate 78.3 111th=
Student-staff ratio 23.5 125th

Vital statistics











Applications/places 20,475/4,115
Applications/places ratio 5:1
Overall offer rate 52.9%


Places in accommodation 687
Accommodation costs £97 - £164
Accommodation contact


Scots/EU fees £0 - £1,820
Fees (placement year) Full fees
Fees (overseas year) Full fees
Fees (international) £14,500 - £17,250
Finance website
Graduate salaries £24,900


Social inclusion and student mix

Social Inclusion Ranking 2
State schools (non-grammar) admissions 98.7%
Grammar school admissions 0.2%
Independent school admissions 1.1%
Ethnic minority students (all) 10.7%
Black achievement gap -30.5%
First generation students 48.3%
Deprived areas 29.9%
Mature students 59.6%
EU students 3.6%
Other overseas students 1.6%

Student satisfaction with teaching quality

Chemistry 88.3%
Biological sciences 83.8%
Politics 83.3%
Hospitality, leisure, recreation and tourism 81.1%
Computer science 81%
Aeronautical and manufacturing engineering 80.4%
Information systems and management 79.7%
Social work 78.8%
Psychology 78.6%
Subjects allied to medicine 77.8%
Accounting and finance 77.4%
Physics and astronomy 77.3%
Social policy 77.1%
Communication and media studies 75.6%
Law 75.3%
Civil engineering 73.9%
Criminology 73.8%
Nursing 73.5%
Archaeology and forensic science 73.1%
Business, management and marketing 72.3%
Education 72%
Sports science 71.8%
Drama, dance and cinematics 71.1%
Music 69.4%
Sociology 68.1%
Mechanical engineering 65.6%
Chemical engineering 63.8%
General engineering 48.9%