Next Generation Higher National Qualifications

Every year, learners across Scotland enhance their prospects by undertaking a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or a Higher National Diploma (HND). We are now adapting our Higher National qualifications to give learners the skills they need to thrive in the  modern workplace. 

Our Next Generation Higher National (NextGen: HN) qualifications will:

  • be adaptable and flexible to respond to the needs of a constantly changing employment environment
  • support life-long learning and multiple career options
  • integrate essential meta-skills –transferable behaviours and abilities that help learners adapt and succeed in life, study and work
  • develop critical industry and subject-specific technical skills

What will be different?

  • NextGen: HNC (level 7) and HND (level 8) are standalone qualifications worth 120 SCQF credit points (equivalent to 15 SQA credits) each.
  • Larger and fewer units of learning to encourage more integrated learning, teaching and assessment approaches.
  • Opportunity to develop meta-skills – these are the skills that help us adapt and excel in any context the future brings. This are embedded in the NextGen: HN qualification design, adapted from: Skills 4.0: a skills model to drive Scotland's future.
  • Significantly reduced assessment load for both learners and staff.
  • A new approach to grading – recognising learners’ achievements across the whole course through whole qualification grading.
  • Digital technology used across delivery to enhance and support effective, flexible and learner-centred assessment, learning and teaching approaches.
  • A new, progressive  process of external  quality assurance based on stakeholder feedback and learners' needs.
  • Opportunity to develop knowledge and understanding of Learning for Sustainability, engaging with the United Nations Sustainability Goals in sector relevant contexts. This will be embedded in the qualification design.

Developing NextGen: HN qualifications

The development of SQA’s Next Generation Higher National (NextGen: HN) qualifications follows a service design model, focusing on meeting the needs of learners and centres, with an emphasis on continuous improvement and collaboration.

All NextGen qualifications are initially developed as a ‘prototype’, which is then piloted and evaluated. NextGen: HN prototypes are valid qualifications, sitting at SCQF Level 7 (HNC) and Level 8 (HND), carrying 120 SCQF credit points.

This approach allows us to challenge and evaluate aspects such as our design principles, grading models and approach to quality assurance.

Ongoing evaluation and feedback from learners, centres, deliverers, staff and other stakeholders helps us learn lessons and refine our approaches to inform the final model for NextGen: HN qualifications.

This iterative development approach provides ongoing opportunities for reflection, review and change, but also means that some details – such as knowledge, skills and learning outcomes of draft Units; grading models and rubrics – can only be confirmed after these processes have been worked through.

We will provide all stakeholders with as much clarity as possible as the pilots develop and details are confirmed.

NextGen: HN development cycle

The Minimum Viable Product document explains the concept of a minimum viable product and why we are using this approach in NextGen: HN. It also looks at what a NextGen: HN minimum viable product will consist of.

HNC Accounting

  • Edinburgh College

HNC Agricultural Technology

  • Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)

HNC Agriculture

  • Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)

HNC Childhood Practice

  • Glasgow Clyde College
  • South Lanarkshire College

HNC Computing

  • South Lanarkshire College
  • NESCOL

HNC Engineering (Electrical & Mechanical hybrid)

  • West College Scotland

HNC Engineering (Engineering Systems)

  • UHI

HNC Horticulture

  • Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)
  • UHI

HNC Physical Activity and Health

  • Dundee and Angus College
  • New College Lanarkshire

HND Radio

  • City of Glasgow College

HNC Social Sciences

  • Dumfries and Galloway College
  • West College Scotland

HNC Social Services

  • Ayrshire College
  • Dundee and Angus College
  • VSA SVQ Centre

HNC Television

  • Edinburgh College
  • New College Lanarkshire
  • NESCOL

HND Television

  • Edinburgh College
  • New College Lanarkshire

HNC Accounting

  • Edinburgh College

HND Accounting

  • Edinburgh College
  • City of Glasgow College

HNC Acting and Performance

  • Glasgow Kelvin College
  • West College Scotland

HNC Agriculture

  • Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)

HND Agriculture

  • Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)

HNC Childhood Practice

  • Glasgow Clyde College
  • South Lanarkshire College

HNC Computing

  • New College Lanarkshire
  • NESCOL

HNC Engineering (Engineering Systems)

  • UHI

HNC Horticulture

  • Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)
  • UHI

HND Horticulture

  • Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)
  • UHI

HND Networking and Cloud Infrastructure

  • NESCOL
  • New College Lanarkshire

HNC Physical Activity and Health

  • Dundee and Angus College
  • New College Lanarkshire

HND Physical Activity and Health

  • Dundee and Angus College
  • New College Lanarkshire

HND Radio

  • City of Glasgow College

HNC Social Sciences

  • Dumfries and Galloway College
  • West College Scotland

HND Social Sciences

  • West College Scotland

HNC Social Services

  • Ayrshire College
  • Dundee and Angus College
  • VSA SVQ Centre

HND Software Development

  • NESCOL
  • New College Lanarkshire

HNC Television

  • Edinburgh College
  • New College Lanarkshire
  • NESCOL

HND Television

  • Edinburgh College
  • New College Lanarkshire
  • NESCOL

NextGen: HN qualifications in development

Separate to the qualifications being piloted, the following NextGen: HN qualifications are currently being developed:

  • HNC/D Administration and Information Technology
  • HNC/D Built Environment Suite
  • HNC/D Creative Industries (Art)
  • HNC/D Creative Industries (Performance)
  • HNC Healthcare Practice
  • HND Assistant Healthcare Practitioner
  • HNC/D Maritime Suite

We will confirm by the end of June 2024 when these qualifications will be available for centres to deliver as a pilot.

Programme timeline

As the piloting of the next generation of Higher National qualifications (NextGen: HN) continues in session 2023-24, we are working to support the future rollout and expansion of the qualifications by ensuring robust business and technology solutions are in place.

Specifically, we are in the early stages of developing new systems to support NextGen: HN quality assurance, grading, certification and invoicing.

Arrangements for session 2024-25

SQA’s next generation of Higher National Qualifications project (NextGen: HN) is progressing. We are thankful for the support of centres taking part in the pilot phase and look forward to continuing work with them in 2024 - 25.  

We recently highlighted that we are working to support the future rollout and expansion of these qualifications by ensuring robust business and technology solutions are in place. 

In addition – and to ensure a manageable expansion of the project – we will increase pilot delivery in a limited number of subjects. 

Centres are therefore being invited to apply to pilot the following HNC subjects from 2024 - 25: Accounting; Computing; Engineering (Engineering Systems, Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering pathways); Physical Activity & Health and Social Sciences.  

If you are interested in piloting any of these subjects, please read our ‘pilot centre application information’ and complete the online form using the link in the document. The closing date for applications is Wednesday 24 January 2024

SQA Academy module

Our SQA Academy module gives overview of how and why we established the programme, its current progress, and a timeline of future work. The NextGen: HN module is accessible to everyone and outlines the features and benefits of the new HN qualifications.