Awards recognise the life and work skills students gain from activities they may already be taking part in at school, college, or elsewhere — such as sport, mentoring, voluntary work, or fundraising activities. In common with some other qualifications in SQA’s portfolio, they have been designed to recognise wider achievement. As such, they will generally tend to be considered by HEPs as qualifications that help students develop a range of additional skills or wider achievements that will complement their learning journey in the Senior Phase of Curriculum for Excellence.

Awards are not the standard entry requirement for Scottish applicants to Scottish universities but, along with other qualifications at SCQF Level 6, may be used to help facilitate entry to short-cycle higher education (HE), such as Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs), offered in some Scottish HEPs. Some universities may also consider them – alongside achievement at Higher – for entry to certain HE programmes.

Awards also provide access to employment, further education, and training.

Awards are aimed at developing students’ knowledge and understanding and, where appropriate, practical experience of a given area of education.


This qualification is ungraded and is awarded upon candidates achieving a Pass in the unit, or each of the units required to successfully complete the qualification.

The flexibility of Awards enables other qualifications to be included in their structure. An external assessment from a National Qualification may not contribute to an Award, however.


Unit assessment may be undertaken at the end of each unit, or through holistic or combined assessment across two or more units.

Unit assessment is marked by the teacher or lecturer, and is not graded. It is subject to internal verification in the centre, and to rigorous external quality assurance by SQA.

Units are assessed according to the Conditions of Assessment appropriate to the subject and level.

Where appropriate, some units are assessed through methods such as an assignment, practical activities, performance, or portfolio evidence.

Where other qualifications – such as a National Progression Award (NPA) – are included in a specific Award, assessment information is available in the QIP for NPAs.

The unit specifications stipulate the nature of unit assessment and are available on the Unit Search, along with information on the Group Award.

Further information

Awards are of variable size and may contain units that are at a lower or higher level than the level of the award. Where credit is at a lower level than the award, these units have not formed part of the Tariff calculation. Only units at or above the level of the award have been used for this purpose. Units in an Award at SCQF Level 6 which are above the level of the Award, have been calculated at UCAS grade band 7.

Students would generally not be expected to apply to undergraduate degree study directly with one or more Awards at SCQF Level 6, unless it is taken as part of a wider programme of learning, including Highers. For progression to short-cycle HE, such as HNC and HND, it may provide a more suitable pathway in Scotland, dependent on relevance, size, and whether taken alongside other qualifications at SCQF Level 6. Many of these students will then enter undergraduate degree study directly into the second or third year with their HNC or HND at Scottish HEPs. A smaller number will apply with their HNC or HND from Scotland to HEPs in England, Northern Ireland, or Wales.

Some students – particularly if taking Awards at school – will take them alongside Highers, though this may also be the case if taken at a tertiary college. There is, therefore, likely to be a relatively mixed pattern of qualifications for applicants to HEPs who hold an Award.

Under CfE, there is an enhanced emphasis on ensuring students undertake their learning journey, and the qualifications and assessment which support it, at a pace which best meets their needs, allowing them some personalisation and choice in the overall curriculum they engage with. As such, different patterns of provision and attainment among students are likely to emerge.

SQA’s Group Award and unit specifications, and other supporting documentation for each Award subject are available at: www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/41280.2540.html

SQA’s website.

View the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) website.