Most Units are designed to take 40 hours of teaching time to complete and learners are expected to do some additional work on their own. You achieve a Unit by passing an assessment — coursework, tests, or practical work marked by the teacher or tutor. The marking is then checked by SQA.

National Units

National Units can be taken at schools, colleges, and training centres. SQA has more than 3,500 Units in a wide range of subjects such as Science, Engineering, Agriculture, and Care.

National Units can be built up into National Courses, National Progression Awards (NPAs) and National Certificates (NC). Our names for the National Units at the various SCQF levels are:

At levels 2 to 6, each Unit is worth six SCQF credit points. At level 7, Units are worth eight points. (The details for level 1 have still to be decided.)

Higher National Units

Higher National Units are mainly taken at college. They are the building blocks of Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs), though they are also qualifications in their own right.

Higher National Units cover the skills and knowledge that people need in jobs at middle management and technician levels. These skills and knowledge are often also used for progression to courses at degree level .

The Units are given an official 'seal of quality' by SQA (we call this 'validation'). Colleges are closely involved in the development of the Units, and the Units have to conform to rigorous, published quality criteria.

HN Units have 8 SCQF credit points and can sit at various SCQF levels, but are normally between SCQF level 6 and 9.

SVQ Units

SCQ Units are based on national 'standards of competence' - properly called 'National Occupational Standards'. These are drawn up by government-sponsored bodies called 'sector skills councils', which are made up of trade bodies, employers, and specialists. There are sector skills councils for most industries.

Each SVQ Unit defines one aspect of a job or a work-role, and says what it is to be competent in that aspect of the job. To achieve a Unit, candidates have to produce evidence to show they are competent.

SVQ Units can be built into Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs). They are sometimes used in wider schemes, such as Modern Apprenticeships.

The SCQF credit points and level of an SVQ Unit will depend on the needs of the industry.