SQA's qualification development cycle

To ensure SQA's portfolio of qualifications is inclusive, addresses progression needs, and reflects Scotland's economic, social, political and cultural needs, SQA scrutinises proposed developments to ensure there is a demonstrated need and reviews existing qualifications periodically for currency and relevance.

For every SQA managed development/review, the process of establishing the need for a qualification has to be completed whether the idea has come from Scottish Government, SQA, employers or others. To begin the development cycle, a Development Opportunity Form (68 KB) should be completed and e-mailed to your SQA Account Manager or if unknown please email to mycentre@sqa.org.uk

SQA's decision making process

Gateway 0
The decision on whether to develop a proposed qualification will be based on the findings of market intelligence gathered through an initial review of the proposal
Gateway 1
Where the decision is to progress an idea further, SQA starts a Business Case and carries out an Opportunity Assessment. The assessment involves desk based research and consultation with other SQA teams to identify potential. The opportunity will be presented to SQA's internal decision-making group(s).
Gateway 2
Where the decision is to explore potential in greater depth, SQA carries out further research on the opportunity in consultation with appropriate colleagues and stakeholders. Based on research, discussion and consultation, SQA score and prioritise opportunity and updates the Business Case. The opportunity will be presented to SQA's internal decision-making group(s).

When SQA has decided whether to proceed with the development - SQA updates the Business Case and informs the person proposing/leading the development.


Where a need for a qualification has been established and the Business Case has been approved the development can begin.


Validation is the quality assurance process SQA uses to ensure all new and revised qualifications are valid, credible and fit for purpose. It is sometimes referred to as subject validation.


Operationalisation is the process of ensuring all SQA's directorates have everything in place to support the successful implementation of the qualification.


Once coded on SQAs Awards Processing System (APS), units and group awards are promoted through the following channels:

  • Qualification page on SQA's website
  • SQA's weekly Centre News
  • Appropriate product catalogue
  • Annual Report


The maintenance of a qualification begins as soon as the qualification has been coded on our Awards Processing System (APS) and centres begin to delivery it.


Existing qualifications are reviewed periodically for currency and relevance.

For centres with devolved authority to validate Group Awards the process of establishing need is the same as that of an SQA managed proposal.  Where a need has been established and development approved, the materials contained in the section below provide an overview of the process, roles and responsibilities for development through to review.

Please note: All single centre requests MUST be accompanied with a project plan, this is available here, along with an email from the centres Internal Quality Team or Senior Management to confirm they have approved the request prior to the request being submitted to SQA.

Process overview for centres with devolved authority to validate Group Awards