LLM GUIDE Focus on Student Life: Scotland

Essential background about four Scottish LL.M. cities

Search for “Scotland” on your favorite online bookshop, and you might come across some modestly worded titles like How Scots Invented the Modern World; How the Scots Made America; and The Mark of the Scots: Their Astonishing Contributions to History, Science, Democracy, Literature, and the Arts.

Yes, the Scots are proud of their “mark” on history, but their claims are not without at least some foundation. Scotland has long been an epicenter of academic excellence and innovation, and home to some of the best universities and most-attractive cities in the United Kingdom, which continue to draw thousands of international students each year.

Let’s start with Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, which Guardian newspaper readers have voted their “favourite UK city” for six consecutive years. Built around a hilly medieval old city, Edinburgh has preserved much of its monumental architecture and historic charm – including the buildings of the University of Edinburgh. Edinburgh is one of the most economically prosperous cities in Britain, serving as both the financial and government center of Scotland. It can feel like both a big and small city, though during the annual Edinburgh Festival – the world’s biggest arts festival – and the rowdy Hogmanay celebrations around New Year’s, Edinburgh acquires the unmistakable feel of a global hub.

Less than fifty miles to the west lies Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city and home to the LL.M. programs offered jointly by the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde, as well as those of Glasgow Caledonian University. While it may not have Edinburgh’s dramatic panoramas, Glasgow has grown into a modern, vibrant, and cosmopolitan city. Glasgow is now recognized for its world-class art collections, classical music venues, and innovative architecture, but adventurous LL.M. students are also certain to enjoy the city’s night life. Glasgow’s excellent pubs and live music scene won it consideration as one of Britain’s best night-life spots. Sport enthusiasts will already know Glasgow as the hometown of Celtic and Rangers football clubs.

If you look to the northeast, and you will find two more LL.M. cities that are worth a look: Aberdeen and Dundee. Aberdeen University, which made the Guardian newspaper’s 2006 top-ten list of law schools in the UK, and is situated in a scenic coastal city of over 200,000 people. Meanwhile, Dundee University is known for its commercial law LL.M. programs, as well as the specialized courses at its Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy (CEPMLP). Both towns have student populations of well over ten thousand.

Aside from the country’s amazing natural beauty and the overall friendliness of the locals, many foreign lawyers choose to do an LL.M. in Scotland because it is generally an attractive entry point into the UK legal job market. The Fresh Talent Initiative, for example, gives graduates of Scottish universities (including graduating LL.M. students) the opportunity to apply for a two-year visa extension to find a job and work in Scotland.

So, what should you know about Scotland before going? First, the costs. Although a year in Scotland is generally cheaper than a year in London, it is still not a bargain by most foreign standards. GGSL estimates the average living costs for a year-long LL.M. program (not including tuition) are between £6,700 and £8,300 (12,800-15,800 US dollars).

Some prospective students – both native and non-native English speakers – worry about not understanding the thick and unique Scottish accents. Personal experience and testimonies of international students who have lived in Scotland for a year suggests that this is NOT something that should deter people from studying in Scotland. Students will get used to the accent in time, and will be surrounded by international students and internationally oriented university staff and faculty.

Here are some Scotland-related websites that you may find helpful or interesting:

Image: "Edinburgh Overview" by Fingalo / Wikimedia Commons (cropped and rotated)


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