NextGen: HN; Grading, Articulation and Progression

If you are currently studying for a NextGen: HN qualification and considering progressing to further study at university, please ensure you confirm, in advance, the entry requirements of any Higher Education Institutions you are considering applying to.

If you are a Higher Education Institution (HEI), find out how you can prepare to receive NextGen: HN learners, the support we can provide, and our new approach to grading in NextGen: HN in our video below:

Preparing to receive NextGen: HN learners

For SQA centres and HEIs, full details of our approach to NextGen: HN grading, and information on articulation and progression are available below.


NextGen: HNs have a new approach to grading, designed to better reflect a learner’s standard in their qualification. Rather than the graded unit(s) used in current HN qualifications, NextGen: NHs will have whole qualification grades.

To achieve a grade in a NextGen HN, a learner will have to demonstrate achievement across the breadth of the qualification content. This will ensure they are recognised for the full range of their achievement, and motivated to perform across the qualification content, rather than being led to focus effort on one or two assessments towards the end of teaching.

Along with this, NextGen: HNs are being designed with fewer, larger units, to encourage a holistic approach to delivery and assessment. The qualifications will have a consistent size and level by design. NextGen HNCs will be level 7 and 120 SCQF credit points, with at least 80 of those points at SCQF Level 7; NextGen HNDs will be level 8 and 120 SCQF credit points, with at least 80 of those points at SCQF Level 8. Centres will therefore be freed to focus on teaching the depth of the qualification, drawing out the connections between different elements of the content.

Grade outcomes

Learners who pass NextGen: HNs will receive one of the following grade outcomes:

  • Achieved
  • Achieved with Merit
  • Achieved with Distinction

These outcomes each have a grading statement which briefly describes a candidate’s performance on their certificate for each of the three grades.

'Achieved'' represents a learner who has passed all the required units, and in addition shown a consistent standard across the breadth of their qualification, having demonstrated thorough knowledge, understanding and application of skills. ‘Achieved with Merit’ and ‘Achieved with Distinction’ represent standards above this.

The new grade outcomes will not directly correlate to the current qualifications' graded unit outcomes of A, B or C, as these are based solely on the graded unit(s).

Review, interim report and recommendations

Grading review

The Good Practice in Assessment and Grading: Grading Review (February 2023) shares the experiences of two centres piloting the NextGen: HNC in Television. It explains how they made grading judgements and capturing the key points of their approaches.

The review helped us build a picture of pilot delivery to inform our interim position on grading.

We listened closely to our pilot centres’ feedback and looked at how grading worked in almost all the qualifications that completed in summer 2023. This included detailed discussion about how centres assessed and graded their learners, and how the grading approach supported this.

We’ve also been looking at how we can support centres with grading learners’ engagement in meta-skills – and we will be doing the same for Learning for Sustainability.

Interim report and recommendations

The interim report captures our findings and interim position on grading and recommends what we should focus on next, including the following key principles:

Grading models

  • Focusing on the key competency and holistic models of grading, which share a lot in common. The key component model was not the right fit for the qualifications it was being used for.
  • Clear principles for the use of those models, meaning that we won’t ask pilot centres to switch models if it is working well.

Overall grade outcomes

  • Rewriting our overall descriptors for each grade outcome so that we have separate ones for HNCs and HNDs. This will allow for clearer benchmarking of grades across the two qualifications, which are at two different SCQF levels.


  • There is a clear benefit to pilot centres discussing and sharing their grade judgements. We want to extend this beyond the pilots, so supportive standardisation discussions among centres continue for all NextGen: HNs.

Documentation and guidance

  • Refining the guidance we provide to pilot centres. They currently receive both an educator guide and a new grading pack, which contains the essential information about grading the qualification, including grading matrices and guidance.

Grading Models

Grading supports articulation and progression, allowing learners to follow the path that is right for them.

The tabs below list the qualifications being piloted and identify which grading model they are currently using.

Learners who complete NextGen: HNs in session 2022-23 would have looked to progress to an HEI in September 2023 while learners completing NextGen: HNs in session 2023-24 would look to progress to an HEI in September 2024.

We are sharing all NextGen: HN qualification content with HEIs to ensure they have the access they need to make decisions.


Holistic Grading Model

  • HNC Accounting
  • HNC Agricultural Technology
  • HNC Childhood Practice
  • HNC Engineering (Electrical & Mechanical hybrid)
  • HNC Engineering (Engineering Systems)
  • HNC Horticulture
  • HNC Physical Activity and Health
  • HNC Social Sciences
  • HNC Social Services

Key Competency Grading Model

  • HNC Agriculture
  • HND Radio
  • HNC Television
  • HND Television

Key Component Grading Model

  • HNC Computing


Holistic Grading Model

  • HNC Accounting
  • HND Accounting
  • HNC Childhood Practice
  • HNC Engineering (Engineering Systems)
  • HNC Horticulture
  • HND Horticulture
  • HNC Physical Activity and Health
  • HND Physical Activity and Health
  • HNC Social Sciences
  • HND Social Sciences
  • HNC Social Services

Key Competency Grading Model

  • HNC Acting and Performance
  • HNC Agriculture
  • HND Agriculture
  • HNC Computing
  • HND Radio
  • HNC Television
  • HND Television
  • HND Networking and Cloud Infrastructure
  • HND Software Development

Articulation and progression

How we can support you

We can provide support to:

  • help colleges engage with HEIs and employers, about articulation and progression.
  • ensure colleges can develop articulation agreements which are in the spirit of our NextGen: HN principles.
  • attend meetings with to discuss articulation and progression and answer any questions.
  • support centres with discussions on progression from HNCs to HNDs – either from existing HNCs to NextGen: HNDs, or progression between colleges.

Request support

Articulation from NextGen: HNC to HEIs

Articulation agreements between colleges and HEIs are generally local arrangements based on the notion of credit accumulation and transfer (CAT).

The opportunity to enter employment or progress along the SCQF framework into further college or university study is widely recognised as one of the key strengths of our Higher National provision. NextGen: HN will enhance these opportunities. HEIs may offer advanced standing - direct entry to second year of degree programmes - to students based on the level they have achieved.

Articulation is defined by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) as ‘a student gaining entry into the second year of a degree with an HNC gained at college, or into the third year with an HND gained at college’.

Therefore, with prior arrangement, a collaborative ‘matching of content’ and a satisfying of any further University conditions a student gaining a NextGen: HNC could articulate to a second year of a degree.

Articulation to a NextGen HND in same institution

There are many routes that could lead to a HND within the same institution.

If the preceding study level was a NextGen: HNC, the articulation is straightforward. However, at this early stage it is possible that the preceding qualification was a non-NextGen: HNC.

It is relatively common for colleges to allow their students to achieve 15 credits at HNC level as a matter of course. Given this, and in keeping with previous handovers between old and new qualifications, colleges will need to review their own frameworks. Where direct articulation gaps are evident, the college should consider Recognition of Prior Learning.

Once entry has been gained to the NextGen: HND, further articulation should be possible to third year of a degree if the above conditions are met.

UCAS arrangements

We have been engaging with UCAS to ensure articulation routes from NextGen: HN programmes are as smooth as possible.

  • NextGen: HN qualifications are visible on the UCAS Advisor Portal within the application process and display as:
  • SQA Higher National Certificate (NextGen)
  • SQA Higher National Diploma (NextGen)

Grades entered for NextGen: HN awards on the UCAS Advisor Portal will be in line with the NextGen: HN grading model.

Predicted grades are entered by choosing:

  • P (Achieved)
  • M (Achieved with Merit)
  • D (Achieved with Distinction)