How do I apply for a postgraduate programme in Computer Science and IT at Heriot-Watt University?
The procedure for making a postgraduate application is described here.
Do I need to specify a JACS code and fill in an ATAS certificate with my MSc application?
Neither a JACS code nor an ATAS certificate is required when applying for one of our taught MSc programmes in Computer Science or Information Technology. However, overseas applicants (i.e. those outside the EU and the EEA) to the one year MSc in Advanced Computer Science, which is an MSc by research, will need a JACS code, which identifies the general area of research. We will tell you what your JACS code is once your research topic has been agreed with your supervisors. You can then use that to make an ATAS application before you apply for your visa to enter the UK.
Where is Heriot-Watt University?
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland.
Heriot-Watt University's main campus is on the western edge of the city of Edinburgh.
Heriot-Watt university also has campuses in the Scottish borders at Galashiels, in Stromness, Orkney, in Knowledge Village, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and in Putrajaya, Malaysia.
A map of the Edinburgh campus can be found here.
What are the academic admission requirements?
The general admissions requirement to our MSc programmes is a good honours degree or its equivalent. For most countries bar England, Wales and Northern Ireland that means a good 4 year bachelor degree.
The MSc programme in Software Engineering require that degree be in Computer Science or a closely related subject. The MScs in Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence with Speech and Multimodal Interaction, Computer Systems Management and Network Security require the applicant have a substantial academic background and understanding of IT issues. Data Science requires an applicant's degree includes a substantial academic component of Computing that covers databases and programming. Other MSc programmes such as IT (Software Systems) require a graduate be numerate and have studied some courses in computing at university. Business Information Management and IT (Business) don't require any background in programming although in the latter case it would be useful. However, both these business related MScs require a higher level of English namely IELTS 6.5 or its equivalent. They are suitable to be taken by graduates in any numerate subject area including Computer Science itself.
Applicants without a good honours degree but having a similar level of academic education may be considered for admission to the postgraduate diploma version of each programme if they demonstrate the appropriate academic potential. All such candidates can progress onto the MSc version of the programme if they perform at MSc level in their coursework and on the exams. The duration of such a 2 phase programme would be the same as the MSc programme.
Candidates lacking the full academic qualifications for admission to an MSc programme but having other qualifications and experience will be considered for admission to either an MSc or postgraduate diploma programme but will be required to produce appropriate evidence that such other qualifications and experience are equivalent to the academic experience of an honours degree at a recognised institution of higher education.
Overseas applicants who only have the equivalent of a good ordinary degree in an IT related subject are not suitable for direction admission to one of our taught postgraduate programmes but may well be suitable for admission to our Graduate Diploma in IT. Successfully passing that at the MSc admissions level will enable them to go onto one of our MSc programmes in the following academic year.
Applicants lacking a good ordinary degree but with an HND or HNC or its equivalent should consider study for an honours degree in Computing first before attempting entry to one of our MSc programmes. Entry for our 4 year BSc in Computer Science or BSc Information Systems is possible at the beginning of the second or third year depending upon academic attainments and potential. Contact our undergraduate admissions person to discuss the possibility.
|£5100||Scottish and non-UK EU students|
|£5100||English, Welsh and Northern Irish students|
The fee for a part-time lectured MSc programme in Computer Science or IT at the Edinburgh campus will be
|£2550||each year for Scottish and non-UK EU students|
|£2550||each year for English, Welsh and Northern Irish students|
|£8610||each year for overseas students|
Study for a part-time MSc degree normally takes 2 years.
Study for the lectured Graduate Diploma in Information Technology (a postgraduate foundation programme for overseas students wishing entry to our MSc programmes) in 2016/17 will cost GBP 17220 without extra English. At our Dubai campus in the United Arab Emirates fees for studying full time for the MScs in Computer Systems Management, IT (Business), IT (Software Systems), Network Security or Software Engineering for 2016/2017 are AED 74000 (GBP 13800).
Students who are uncertain of their fee status (i.e. which fee rate they should pay) can fill in the university's fee status form and get their fee status determined.
As a current, retired, spouse of or child of a staff member of
Heriot-Watt University can I have part of my fees remitted?
There is a university policy governing soliciting partial remission of fees for
Essentially such parties can apply to the head of the school offering the programme of study on one of the forms in the policy document and ask for the head to exercise their discretion on the matter. Whether it is granted and to what extent is entirely a matter for the current head of school. Completed forms should be submitted to the HR department as detailed in the policy document.
When do I pay my tuition fees?
A tuition fee invoice will be forwarded to you prior to Registration. If you have a sponsor, it is essential that you bring a current sponsorship letter with you to Registration, and show it to the Finance section. If you do not bring your sponsorship letter with you to Registration you will be classed as self-financing, and therefore be liable for the tuition fees.
Secure payment can be made in advance via the university's secure online payment facility. Full payment of the fee can also be made by cash, cheque, bankers draft or credit/debit card at Registration or beforehand.
Please note that students and sponsors who fail to pay the full amount of their agreed contribution will be charged a late penalty of 4% on the outstanding balance 30 days after the start of each semester.
Can I pay my tuition fees by instalments?
Payment in instalments can be made by setting up an arrangement before 14th October 2016 called a recurring card payment. If you choose to pay by this method you may do so in 6 instalments commencing late October 2016 and then the 15th of the month for each subsequent month. There is no charge for this facility. Answers to various questions about fee payment can be found here. Details about payment are sent to applicants along with information about registration.
How much does it cost to live while studying?
Living for 12 months from September to August is estimated by us to cost a postgraduate student GBP 8500 altogether. The breakdown is given here.
What scholarships are available?
Information on Scholarships available to support study for an MSc in Computer Science or IT is available from the Department of Computer Science and from Heriot-Watt University.
What is a financial guarantee?
If you are going to pay your own fees and expenses, a financial guarantee is a bank statement or reference to show that you have sufficient funds to cover your costs. If someone else is going to pay (parents, another relative, a friend, a company or government) a financial guarantee is a signed letter from them. In the letter they should promise to pay your fees and expenses or explain how much of them they are intending to pay.
If you have been offered partial financial assistance to pay fees by us or some other party, then you may be asked to supply a financial guarantee in relation to the remaining expenses (including living costs) which you will incur while studying.
What documents and details must I supply to you to get an official offer
In order for us to issue overseas students with an official unconditional offer letter called a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies or CAS, the UK Borders Agency requires that you supply us with
If you are from outside the European Union, EEA and Switzerland and are not from a majority English speaking country like Canada, then you must provide us with evidence that you have reached the CEF level of B2 in speaking, listening, reading and writing before we can issue you with a CAS. Without that letter you will not be able to get a tier 4 visa to enter the UK. The UKBA provide guidance on obtaining such visas.
EU, EEA (EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Swiss students don't need to supply us with passport details.
See below for more details on English requirements.
Is it necessary to know how to program in a programming language like Java or have studied databases before coming on a MSc?
Students coming onto our MSc in Business Information Management don't need to know how to design or write computer programs before they come onto this MSc or while they study on it, although they may opt to do a programming course on the MSc if they wish to learn how. All other prospective MSc students should already have or acquire a working knowledge of some programming language before they start.
We teach the programming language Java in the course F21SF Software Engineering Foundations in semester 1 on most of our MSc programmes bar the MSc AI with Speech and Multimedia Interaction and the MSc Software Engineering. So it is not usually necessary to know Java before starting an MSc programme.
However, F21SF Software Engineering Foundations assumes familiarity with programming concepts in general, so if you have never written a computer program before then you would be well advised to teach yourself how to write programs in a programming language in widespread use before starting the MSc programme. Usually only some of our MSc in IT (Business) students are likely to find themselves in this situation. This doesn't mean that this MSc is not for computer scientists. Quite a few of our IT (Business) students have well developed software engineering skills and some have done first degrees in Computer Science.
Several of our MSc courses (i.e. parts of degrees) presuppose knowledge of the Java programming language, so if you plan to teach yourself a programming language, you might as well teach yourself some Java. You can then use the course F21SF to reinforce that knowledge.
There are many good books written about how to program in Java. None of them stands head and shoulders above the others. So choose a recently published one that seems to be in demand, buy it and learn Java programming from it. Alternatively you can probably find online learning materials on Java that are just as good and don't cost anything to access. You can find a list of such courses here. An example would be Java for Complete Beginners (Udemy).
Remember that Java programming is a practical art. So download a Java distribution and acquire practical programming skills as you read and understand the theory. Make it interesting for yourself by creating entertaining applications like simple games. Don't adopt a numerically oriented approach to Java programming. Practical programming is far more about string processing and event handling in interfaces than about plugging numbers into equations.
Prior knowledge of databases is also required of MSc Data Science students and is expected of students taking our MScs in Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence with Speech and Multimodal Interaction, Network Security and Software Engineering. Students taking all other MScs can take our course F21DF Database and Information Systems in semester 1 to remedy lack of such knowledge.
Knowledge of databases means understanding the principles of computer database organisation and design especially relational ones and practically grasping at least one database query language like SQL and knowing how to exercise it via a programming language of some kind. It would be possible to remedy lack of such knowledge by successfully taking a MOOC such as Introduction to Databases from Stanford University or studying a recent book covering such a topic and doing its exercises.
What is a financial deposit or advance fee instalment?
Self or family financed international applicants from outside the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Liechenstein, may be asked to pay a non-refundable advance payment of the first instalment of their tuition fees in order to secure a place. This will be roughly 25% of the tuition fee (i.e. GBP 4000). It is intended to enable the university to estimate more precisely in advance how many international students will actually come to study at Heriot-Watt university. Only if your visa is refused, will the university refund the advance fee payment. To claim the refund send us a copy of your visa refusal letter and we will get our finance office to refund the advance fee instalment to the party who paid it.
If the student is corporate or government sponsored then only a financial guarantee from their sponsor will be necessary unless a full guarantee cannot be provided. If the student is self-financing or sponsored by a relative or friend then a non-refundable deposit will be payable in advance by 31st July 2016 for those starting programmes in mid September 2016. Secure payment can be made via the university's secure online payment facility or by a variety of other means
Can I study for an MSc programme in Computer Science and IT part-time?
Study for any of our full-time on campus lectured MSc programmes can be done part-time. Arrangements for doing this are individually negotiated with the MSc programme's director. Part-time students take 2 years to complete such a programme. The curriculum of such a lectured MSc programme taken part-time is the same as the curriculum of the programme taken full-time except that study is extended over more than one year. Since none of the lectured MSc programmes is primarily designed as a part-time programme, part-time students are warned that lectures and supervised labs taken part-time are not neatly bunched together on one or two days but are spread throughout the week from 9.15 on Monday morning until 17.15 on Friday. No lectures are given in the evening. This can make it difficult to combine study of particular courses with working part-time on regular days and hours of the week.
Furthermore timetables for our degree programmes are usually only available shortly before a semester starts and then only for that semester i.e. the timetable for semester 1 for the 12 weeks from mid September to early December cannot be obtained before mid August and the timetable for semester 2 for the 12 weeks from early January to the end of March cannot be obtained until mid December. So advance planning of your time is tricky. That can be a problem with employers, who want detailed advance plans in advance of committing to cooperating with part-time working arrangements in conjunction with part-time MSc study.
A typical pattern of part-time study on a lectured MSc programme would be to study 4 subject courses in the 1st year and 4 subject courses in the second year and to do the MSc project extended over the 2 years. Typical courses consist currently of 36 or 24 lectures of one hour each and 24 hours of supervised labs. Such courses are usually delivered as 3 or 2 lectures of one hour each and a 2 hour lab session every week for 12 weeks of a semester. So part-time study could involve 6 hours of lectures and 2 lab sessions of 2 hours each week in semesters 1 and 2 (September to December and January to April) in each of 2 years. Most courses are assessed both at the end of the semester in a 2 hour exam paper and by submitted coursework. MSc project supervision sessions can be arranged in a very flexible way with your MSc project supervisor.
Britain won't grant a tier 4 visa to non-EU students seeking to study part-time in Britain. Thus working in the UK part-time to finance study part-time is not a practical possibility for single overseas students. However, if your wife or husband is studying full-time in Britain, you may be able to work and study part-time so long as your status is that of a cohabiting financial dependant.
What advice can you give me on getting a visa to the UK?
Getting a visa to study in the UK from most third world countries is not easy. The British Council supplies good general advice on student visa applications. Also read carefully all the advice given on the web site of the local visa office you apply to. Chinese students can find visa pages for their local UK visa office on the British Embassy web site in Beijing.
Many student visa applications are refused because of defects in the evidence of funding or inability to support the evidence of funding. Complete and accurate supporting documentation is therefore crucial. Pay attention to any advice given about supporting documentation. The visa service literally means all that it says. If they want original documents, don't give them photocopies. If they want bank statements over a given period don't supply less than that. Make sure all documents supplied are well printed, completely legible and translated into English.
Supply all the required documentation in the required way at the first application attempt. Reapplications after a failed first attempt are judged more critically in every respect just because the applicant has failed once already whatever the reason for a refusal. If you have failed in your first attempt to get a UK visa, get good professional advice to assist you in your re-application. The university has agents in many countries who can assist you to make a visa application for a fee. Information about these agents can be obtained from our International Office (tel: 44 131 451 3707).
Can I get accommodation in a hall of residence on campus?
All new postgraduate students are guaranteed accommodation if they have accepted an offer of place on a full-time postgraduate degree and have applied for accommodation by the due date (see below). Usually this will be in a hall of residence on campus during their programme of postgraduate study. Such accommodation gives students exclusive use of their own room containing at least a bed, cupboard, chair and desk and shared use of bathroom, toilet and cooking facilities. All applications for such accommodation must be made online from 8 April 2016 to our Accommodation Service. They must be made by 12.00 on 25th August 2016 for students starting in mid September to benefit from the guarantee.
The Accommodation Service will assist all Heriot-Watt students in any circumstances with finding accommodation.
What level of English do you require for postgraduate programmes in Computing?
For all our MScs bar the MSc Business Information Management and IT (Business) we require non-native English speakers to be proficient in English equivalent to:
For the MSc Business Information Management and MSc IT (Business) programmes we require a higher level of IELTS 6.5 or CEF C1 level or its equivalent. The higher level is needed to take courses offered by our School of Management and Languages. They expect proficiency across the board in reading, writing, speaking and listening at or near the required level.
We will also sometimes accept as proof of adequate English skills, evidence that a student has been taught and assessed wholely in English at university level depending on the country the student has studied in and taking into account our own experience of whether that is generally sufficient. This usually suffices for India, Nigeria and Thailand but not for Malaysia, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. We accept as well assessments by our own English language teaching professionals as to a student's academic English skills at an average of Grade C (grade B for the MScs in BIM and IT (Business)).
The UK Borders Agency also requires that overseas students (i.e. those from outside the UK, European Union, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein), who are applying for a tier 4 visa to enter the UK in order to embark on degree level study, must be proficient to Common European Framework Level B2 in reading, writing, listening and speaking. The only acceptable English language qualification to establish that currently is an IELTS tests taken in the last 2 years at an approved centre.
The UK Borders Agency tier 4 English requirements and our English requirements are NOT the same. Nor does satisfying either requirement imply the satisfaction of the other requirement. A student with IELTS 5.5 in all 4 parts obtained by a test in the last 2 years at an approved centre would satisfy the UKBA but not us. A student with IELTS 6.0 but only 5.0 in reading would satisfy us but not the UKBA. Students requiring a CAS letter from us in order to get a tier 4 visa must satisfy both sets of requirements. The UK Borders Agency gives us no discretion in applying their rules, which it expects strict compliance with under pain of rescinding our power to issue CAS letters.
CEF B2 equivalence (according to UKBA) is shown by the following minimum levels:
Overall English language equivalences of these tests are:
|IELTS||TOEFL IBT||PTE Academic||Cambridge||TOEIC|
|7.0||100+||68||CPE grade C||780|
|6.5||90-99||61||CAE grade B||725|
The UKBA list of approved English language tests can be found here.
Applicants from majority English speaking countries like Australia, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand and USA don't need to do any English language tests. Applicants from countries like Ghana, India and Nigeria who have studied in English at school and university only need to provide some proof of that to us and shouldn't need to do any English test. The same applies to applicants from Thailand who have studied in English at university.
Other applicants such as those from Libya, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will be required to supply us with proof of their English language skills by recognised public standard tests such as IELTS. Our experience of students from these countries is that even though many do much of their university study in English, they often have not reached the level of English we require without further English language study.
On the Graduate Diploma in IT we require for September entry an IELTS level of at least 5.5, which must comply with the UK Borders Agency requirement of 5.5 in each component (reading, writing, listening or speaking) if the applicant wants a tier 4 visa.
Does Edinburgh get very cold and wet in winter?
Edinburgh and Scotland have a mild climate throughout the year. The average temperature in Edinburgh never falls below zero even in winter. The lowest average monthly temperatures are 3 degrees centigrade in January and February. Rainfall in Edinburgh is also modest.
Can I get a job while studying in Scotland?
Students from the European Union or EU have an unrestricted right to work in the UK. A tier 4 student visa allows students from outside the EU to work up to 10 hours a week during a semester and full time in the holidays. We recommend all full-time students not to work more than 10 hours a week during semester time if they are not to risk failing to graduate.
Do I have to pay council tax while studying in Scotland?
Students attending full-time study programmes of at least 24 weeks in an academic session and at least 21 hours study weekly can claim exemption from Council Tax - a Tax collected by Local Authorities. However, the exemption only applies to a student sharing a place to stay if all persons living there are similarly exempt. The councils adjacent to Heriot-Watt University are: The City of Edinburgh Council; West Lothian Council; East Lothian Council; Midlothian Council and Fife Council. They will be able to provide you with definitive guidance about whether you need to pay the tax or are entitled to claim exemption.
Can I stay in Scotland after finishing my degree and get a job?
Students from outside the European Union, who have entered the UK under a tier 4 visa to study here, usually have to apply for a tier 2 (general) visa to be allowed to take up employment in the UK. To get a tier 2 visa you would need to fulfil several conditions including (but not limited to)
However, the Scottish Government is keen to encourage talented individuals to come to live, work and study in Scotland. They provide advice to such individuals on their web site here. It details the full range of possibilities for overseas students to work in the UK after university level study in Scotland.
Can I get free health care while studying at Heriot-Watt University?
All undergraduate and postgraduate students undertaking a programme of study lasting 6 months or more are entitled to free medical treatment on the National Health Service from the time of arrival. This will cover medical and nursing consultations, consultant referrals if necessary, and emergency care. Medication prescribed by the doctor may require payment at the current NHS rate per item. Currently in 2016 there are no Scottish NHS prescription charges. Help with health costs beyond the free care may be possible by applying to the Health Benefits Division. Form HC1 is available for this from our Medical Centre or from a Post Office. All students must register with a general practitioner once they have a permanent semester-time address in order to obtain the above service. The university has its own health centre on campus. This may be the most convenient general practioner service to register with if students live on campus.
Can I get special help with my disability while studying at Heriot-Watt University?
Heriot-Watt university provides specialised facilities and a support service for people with disabilities in order to enable them to study while at the university. Students should disclose their disability prior to starting their programme to a university disability advisor so that a proper assessment can be made of their needs and appropriate support can be arranged during their period of study at the university. Disability support is provided in accordance with the university's equal opportunities policy on disability.
Are Heriot-Watt University programmes recognised by the Chinese Government?
The Chinese government through its Chinese Service for Cultural and Scholarly Exchange recognises the degrees of Heriot-Watt University.
Does the university have child care facilities?
Heriot-Watt University has a commercial nursery on its Edinburgh campus. It takes in children from the ages of 3 months to 5 years. It runs 5 days a week and children can be cared for either half day or full day.
What is your ranking in the National Student Survey?
Heriot-Watt University was ranked 35 out of 160 UK universities and HEIs for its 89% overall satisfaction in the latest National Student Survey results by the Times Higher Education Student Survey 2015. Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University was ranked 10th out of 110 Computer Science departments for overall satisfaction at 93% as against a national average of 82% for this subject in NSS 2014.
What is the your research ranking in REF 2014?
REF 2014 is the latest UK wide framework for comparing excellence in research in the UK among its higher education and research institutions. The next such exercise will take place in 2020. Heriot-Watt University was ranked 33 out of 128 Higher Education Institutes by the Times Higher Education in their interpretation of REF 2014 results and 43 out of 150 by The Guardian.
Our Computer Science REF 2014 result was 23% 4*, 55% 3*, 18% 2*, 4% 1*. We submitted 27.7 staff FTEs. The Times Higher Education ranks Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University 28 out of 89 Computer Science and Informatics units of assessments in UK universities in REF 2014.
What is the overall ranking of Heriot-Watt university?
There is no universally accepted ranking system for UK universities. 3 organisations attempt to supply such league tables but all use different criteria. The Guardian University Guide 2017 ranks Heriot-Watt University 27 out of 120+ UK universities. The Times/Sunday Times University Guide 2016 ranks Heriot-Watt University 38 out of 120+. The Complete University Guide: University League Table 2017 ranks Heriot-Watt University 34 out of 120+ UK universities. Wikipedia reviews the criteria of these UK university rankings.
What is the current ranking of Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University among UK universities?
The Guardian University Guide for 2016 ranks Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University 14 out of 102 Computer Sciences and IT departments in UK universities. The Complete University Guide for 2016 ranks Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University 24 out of 105 Computer Sciences and IT departments in UK universities. The Times/Sunday Times University Guide for 2015 ranks Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University 24 out of 101 Computer Science/IT departments. The Times Higher Education ranks Computer Science Research at Heriot-Watt University 28 out of 89 Computer Science and Informatics units of assessments in UK universities in REF 2014.
Can you recommend any books to buy and/or read before starting my MSc programme with you?
We do not publish a general reading list for prospective MSc students. However, that doesn't mean that a reading list cannot be discovered for a particular course.
Suitable reading for most courses can be discovered by finding out who is responsible for teaching that course (i.e. module on an MSc degree). That can usually be found out from the MSc programme web page you are interested in which can be accessed from here. On the web page specific to that MSc programme, click on the course code you want reading materials on (e.g. F21SF or F21EC but not any codes beginning with a C or B) and note down the name of the person responsible for that course. Then find that person's staff profile here. The staff profile will usually contain a link to a personal website with links to study materials on courses they teach. In a few cases those pages may only be available to registered students but in many cases they will be available to anyone. In that material at the start you will often find last year's reading list. It is nearly the best guide as to what this year's reading list for that course will be.
How do I get a European Diploma Supplement for the postgraduate taught course I have completed with you?
Under the Bologna Process every student graduating from 2005 at a Higher Education Institution in the European Union is entitled to receive the European Diploma Supplement automatically and free of charge. If you have not already received it, please apply to the university registry for your EDS. The European Diploma Supplement comprises a Transcript, Programme/Course Information, and the National Framework description for an approved course of study at an EU HEI.
Are your MSc degrees accredited by any relevant professional association?
The following specialist MSc degrees that we run are accredited by the British Computer Society which is also known as the Chartered Institute for IT:
This means that graduates of these degrees will be exempt from the further education requirements of the BCS when applying to become a Chartered IT Professional. They will also be partially exempt from some admission requirements when applying for Chartered Scientist (CSci) or Chartered Engineer (CEng) status.
The BCS no longer accredit what they call "generalist MSc degrees" like our MSc IT (Business) and the MSc IT (Software Systems) even though both degrees were accredited by the BCS a few years ago when they did do such a thing. However, the BCS will still take such education into account when assessing whether or not an applicant has met their various conditions for membership. The difference is that accreditation allows an applicant to satisfy some requirements automatically just by producing their degree certificate without having to argue the details with the BCS.
The BCS last visited us in their 5 yearly inspection cycle in February 2015. When this happened, our new MSc in AI with Speech and Multimodal interaction had not yet had a cohort of students complete it for the first time. So it was only provisionally accredited. When we report to the BCS on the learning experience of the first cohort through this MSc, we will be eligible to get full accreditation for it. If the BCS approve our reports of those learning experiences then all accreditations of the MSc programmes mentioned will be full ones from 2014 to 2019.
Computer Science Office Room 1.24 Earl Mountbatten Building, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh EH14 4AS, Scotland
For information about postgraduate programmes, telephone +44 (0)131 451 8444 or