Higher Education

Edinburgh has been a global centre for higher education for centuries. 18,000 people now work in higher education, with over 70,000 students. In addition to providing a supply of new skilled workers, Edinburgh's higher education institutions are major sources of new spin-out companies and intellectual property.

Edinburgh is home to five higher education institutions:  

  • The University of Edinburgh (founded 1582): Scotland's largest and oldest university, with world-leading research capabilities across a huge range of institutes and centres.
  • Edinburgh Napier University (founded 1964): A modern university organised into six schools: Applied Sciences, Arts & Creative Industries, Business School, Computing, Engineering & the Built Environment, and Health & Social Care.
  • Heriot-Watt University (founded 1821): A global university specialising in engineering, science, and business. Its campus in Edinburgh include the Heriot-Watt University Research Park, Edinburgh's largest science park.
  • Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh (founded 1875): Based in a purpose-built campus on the outskirts of Edinburgh, Queen Margaret University has been ranked Scotland's top modern university, with a strong focus on equipping graduates with the skills and experience sought by employers. Its research activity includes the Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation; the Centre for Health, Activity and Rehabilitation Research; and the Clinical Audiology, Speech and Language Research Centre.
  • Scotland's Rural College (created 2012): Scotland's Rural College specialises in education, research, and consultancy services relating to Scotland's land-based activities, including agriculture, forestry, and animal science.

Other academic institutions with a presence in Edinburgh include St Mary's University, which offers master's degree courses in theology and Catholic education on its satellite campus in Edinburgh, in partnership with the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh.

The Scottish Funding Council - the funding body for Scotland's higher education sector - is headquartered in Edinburgh.

Spin-out companies

Edinburgh's higher education institutions have created hundreds of spin-out companies offering many innovative products and services. Among the spin-outs are pureLifi (which has pioneered the use of light for wireless communications); Celtic Renewables (which uses biotechnology to turn whisky by-products into biofuel); Kenoteq (which has invented the K-Briq, a building brick made from 90% recycled materials); and Cyan Forensics (which has developed digital forensics software to help police locate digital evidence).


Edinburgh's higher education institutions have world-leading capabilities in multiple research fields, creating opportunities for collaboration with businesses in areas including medical science, software, biotechnology, energy, and food production. 

The growing number of students studying in Edinburgh has created opportunities for the development of new purpose-built student accommodation such as the Keel Houses.

A graphic of graduation materials.

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