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

Next Gen: HN Phase 2 - SQA led applications open

We are now entering Phase 2 with the exciting fresh strand of SQA led developments which support the underlying principles behind NextGen: HN, supporting flexibility, meeting centre and employer needs while providing qualifications which meet a robust national standard. The link provides further information, including design parameters, selection criteria, available support and application form. The deadline for receipt of applications is 12 noon on the 24 September 2021. The evaluation of applications by SQA and partners will take place immediately thereafter, informing all successful and unsuccessful centres of our decision by the 29 October 2021.

If you have any questions about the SQA led developments, piloting, or the application process itself, please contact nextgen@sqa.org.uk. The team will be delighted to assist. We look forward to hearing from you.

Download our application form (78 KB)

What are the new HN qualifications?

Development work is now underway for the following qualifications which will be piloted in academic year 2022/23. Teaching support will be available to centres taking part in the pilot through our digital learning and support platform. The qualifications being piloted are as follows:

  • HNC Computing
  • HND Computer Science
  • HND Data Science 
  • HND Networking and Infrastructure
  • HND Software Development
  • HNC Engineering (with Engineering Systems options)
  • HNC Engineering (with Manufacturing Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Engineering Systems, Electrical Engineering, Electronic Engineering and Instrumentation and Control options)
  • HND Engineering Systems
  • HND Television
  • HND Radio
  • HNC Social Sciences
  • HNC Fitness, Health and Exercise (HND 2023/24)
  • HNC Accounting (HND 2023/24)
  • HNC Childcare Practice
  • HNC Social Services

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 is NextGen:HN? E-learning module

We have created an introductory e-learning module which can be accessed here. This module provides background of the project, what is different, what are the benefits and other high-level information


What will be different?


HNC (level 7) and HND (level 8) are standalone qualifications worth 120 SCQF credit points (equivalent to 15 SQA 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