HNC/HND Social Sciences

Higher National Qualifications provide practical skills and theoretical knowledge that meet the needs of employers and higher education. The HNC in Social Sciences (SCQF level 7) develops knowledge and skills in areas such as human society and social relationships. The HND in Social Sciences (SCQF level 8) builds on the knowledge and skills of the HNC and also covers analysis and evaluation.

This qualification covers areas such as Sociology, Psychology, Research and other Social Sciences.

This qualification is available through colleges and some universities. Typically, an HNC takes one year to complete and an HND takes two years.

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 HN provides progression routes to further study (see Progression).

The HNC and HND in Social Sciences are suitable for a wide range of candidates 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:

  • SQA Highers in appropriate subjects at SCQF level 6
  • National Certificate course in Social Sciences at SCQF level 6
  • SWAP Access programmes in Arts and Humanities
  • Core Skill Communication at SCQF level 6

Or relevant work experience.

Different combinations of relevant National Qualifications, vocational qualifications and equivalent qualifications from other awarding bodies may also be acceptable.

Learners who achieve an HNC in Social Sciences can progress to the HND in Social Sciences (GP2N 16).

HNCs and HNDs can provide progression to degree-level study. For example, the HNC in Social Sciences may allow direct entry into the second year of most degree programmes, and the HND in Social Sciences may allow direct entry to most third year programmes.

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

Centres without devolved authority are required 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 Systems and Qualification Approval Guide.

Each individual unit specification gives detailed information on the evidence requirements and approaches to assessment for each unit.

Ongoing course assessment will apply.

HNC Social Sciences

Group award code: GP1K 15 (96 SCQF credit points).

HNC Social Sciences at SCQF level 7 consists of 5 mandatory units (48 SCQF credit points) and 5 optional units (48 SCQF credit points).

HND Social Sciences

Group award code: GP2N 16 (240 SCQF credit points).

HND Social Sciences at SCQF level 8 consists of 10 mandatory units (96 SCQF credit points) and a number of optional units (144 SCQF points).

GP1K 15 GP2N 16 (1.02 MB)

There are 3 Higher National units in Social Anthropology. The units are:

HG55 33 - Social Anthropology: Who does it and how to do it (SCQF level 6)

HJ2V 34 - Social Anthropology: The Body and its Life Course (SCQF level 7)

HK4Y 35 - Social Anthropology: Ethnographies of Scottish Peoples (SCQF level 8)

The units are included in the optional section of the HNC and HND Social Sciences awards.

There is a National unit at SCQF level 5:

HG1M 45        Social Anthropology: Understanding Our Place in the World

This unit is included in the optional section of the National Certificate in Social Sciences at SCQF levels 5 and 6.

This resource list includes books, journals and websites (156 KB) 

Teaching anthropology in England

The University of Edinburgh played host to a group of teachers and lecturers interested in SQA's new Social Anthropology units. Tomislav Maric gave a presentation about his experience of teaching anthropology in England.