Facts about Scottish Highers: subjects and grades, who they are for, and what you can do afterwards.

Scottish Higher qualifications (known as Highers) are subject-based qualifications that can lead to university, further study, training, or work. You can normally study four or five Highers. The flexibility of the Scottish curriculum allows these to be sat over one or two years. They’re usually assessed by a series of examinations. 

What grades do I need to progress to Highers?

You normally need:

  • at least five National 5 qualifications (Nat 5s) at grades A – C, although, most universities recognise that you can bypass Nat 5s and move straight to Higher study, and this will not count against you when consideration is being given to your application.

The specific requirements needed to study Highers will vary across schools. It's important to check what you'll need with the school you are looking to study at.

Who are they for?

  • If you're thinking about going to university, most higher education courses require a minimum of four Higher qualifications, and often there are specific Higher subjects and grades required.
  • If you’re not sure what career or job you want to do, studying a selection of Highers can be a good way of keeping your options open.

Choosing Higher subjects

The most important criteria for choosing Higher subjects are:

  1. Looking at what you are likely to enjoy, and be good at. If you enjoy a subject, or have an ability in it already, you are more likely to do well.
  2. Are there any particular subjects and/or grades you may need? If you have a particular career, job, or further study in mind, you may need to choose specific subjects to meet entry requirements.

The Scottish education system is quite broad – you study four to six subjects, meaning you can keep your future study, and career choices, fairly flexible.

What you can do after Highers

Many people ask, 'what can I do with my Highers?' – here are some answers:

  • Here is a great place to start looking at all the options open to you.
  • Continue on to university – Highers are the most common qualifications studied in Scotland to get into higher education, but there are other options. 
  • Keep your options open if you’re unsure about what you want to do in the future.
  • Look for employment – Highers are valued by employers, because they show a good level of education.
  • Go on to study an HNC/HND at an FE college, or vocational or work-based qualifications, such as an apprenticeship, a higher apprenticeship, or a degree apprenticeship.