HND Applied Biological Sciences

Higher National qualifications provide practical skills and theoretical knowledge that meet the needs of employers.

The HND in Applied Biological Sciences at SCQF level 8 is intended for those wishing to find employment in the science industries or to progress to further (degree level) study. It is a wide-ranging course that develops knowledge and skills in the theoretical and practical aspects of biological sciences.  Learners will also develop a wide range of practical laboratory skills and good laboratory practice. 

This qualification is available through colleges. Typically, an HND takes two years to complete.

The following optional guidance can be used to support delivery and assessment as an alternative to the approaches outlined in the Group Award / Unit specification.

Optional assessment guidance 2023-24

Higher National qualifications have been developed by SQA in partnership with colleges, universities and industry ¿ so employers recognise that they provide sound evidence of ability.

The Unit-based structure supports flexibility. A Unit is typically 40 hours of timetabled learning.

There is a wide choice of optional Units which will enable centres to offer courses tailored to meet local needs.

This HND provides progression routes to further study. (See Progression)

The HND Applied Biological Sciences is suitable for a wide range of learners including:

  • school leavers
  • adult returners to education
  • individuals in employment who wish to enhance their career prospects


As with all SQA qualifications, entry is at the discretion of the centre. Examples of formal entry qualifications include:

  • a minimum of Biology/Human Biology or Chemistry at Grade C or above at Higher level, and one other Higher with appropriate supporting qualifications at National 5 level (or equivalent) in relevant science and mathematics subjects
  • NC Applied Sciences level 6
  • qualifications in appropriate science and mathematics programmes, such as Access programmes ¿ learners should have gained some Units at Higher level in appropriate science
  • suitable work experience gained in a science laboratory 

Progression and employment

HNDs can provide progression to degree-level study. For example, the HND Applied Biological Sciences (GK6G 16) may allow direct entry into the second or third year of some degree programmes.

Higher National qualifications may also provide the knowledge and understanding required for related Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) ¿ for example, the SVQs in Life Sciences and Related Industries.

Centres with devolved authority for approval should use their own internal approval process.

Centres without devolved authority will have to come forward for approval and should contact SQA¿s Business Development Team for guidance.

Assessors and verifiers must be able to meet SQA¿s general requirements for technical/occupational competence as outlined in the Guide to Approval.

Each individual Unit specification gives detailed information on the Evidence Requirements and approaches to assessment for each Unit.

Ongoing course assessment will apply.

Assessment/e-assessment support packs are available for this qualification.

HND Applied Biological Sciences

Group Award code: GK6G 16 (240 SCQF credit points)

HND Applied Biological Sciences at SCQF level 8 consists of 14 mandatory Units (160 SCQF credit points) and a number of optional Units (80 SCQF points).

Understanding Standards documents have been developed for the following Units:

  • Applied Sciences: Graded Unit 1 (H91W 34)
  • Applied Biological Sciences: Graded Unit 2 (H91Y 35)
  • Laboratory Skills for Science Industries
  • Abbreviated pro forma at SCQF levels 7 and 8
  • Checklists – HN Science units at SCQF level 6
  • Marking guidance for organic chemistry assessments

To access the Understanding Standards documents, please visit the Understanding Standards website. This is a password-protected area of the website and login details can be obtained from the SQA Co-ordinator in centres approved to deliver the qualifications.

Changes to understanding standards materials

Please note: Understanding Standards materials are regularly reviewed to ensure they remain up to date.