Our qualifications are changing

We are adapting our Higher National (HN) qualifications to give learners the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century workplace. 

Our new 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 21st century skills or Meta-skills
  • develop critical industry and subject-specific technical skills

What are the new HN qualifications?

We are piloting the following qualifications in participating centres in 2021-22:

Teaching support will be available to centres taking part in the pilot through our digital learning and support platform.

HNC Computing

HNC Engineering (with Engineering Systems options)

HNC Television

HND Data Science

How did we get here?

We ran a consultation between February 2018 and March 2019 to think about how to reshape HNs for the future, given the extent of change in the education, skills and employment landscape since they were last reviewed and revised.

This included extensive engagement with colleges, sector skills bodies, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Funding Council and other stakeholders.

What will be different?


HNC (level 7) and HND (level 8) are standalone qualifications worth 15 credits each.

Larger and fewer units of learning to significantly reduce assessment load and encourage more integrated learning, teaching and assessment approaches.


Opportunity to develop meta-skills ¬≠defined as skills that help us to adapt and excel in any context the future brings for example, self-management, social intelligence and innovation. This will be embedded in the qualification design adapted from: Skills 4.0: a skills model to drive Scotland's future:


Significantly reduced assessment load for both learners and staff.

Three new models of grading we are testing these across the pilot qualifications.

Digital technology used across delivery to enhance and support effective, flexible and learner-centred assessment, learning and teaching approaches.

New approaches to grading and Quality Assurance based on stakeholder feedback and learners needs.


What happens next?

Throughout the pilot we will evaluate the effectiveness of the new qualifications. We will measure how well they:

  • increase opportunities for learners
  • support successful progression into employment or further learning

A steering group of stakeholders and key internal SQA personnel will co-ordinate this, supported by a working group. We will communicate updates on this activity regularly.

For more information on the pilot, contact nextgen@sqa.org.uk