SQA National Progression Award (NPA)

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  • Scotland

National Progression Awards (NPAs) 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.

They generally tend to be considered by HEPs as qualifications that help students develop a range of additional skills or wider achievements that complement their learning journey in the Senior Phase of Curriculum for Excellence.

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

NPAs are aligned to National Occupational Standards (NOS).

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

The aim is to provide a solid basis for progression into further education and training, as well as higher education, while developing students with a more mature approach to study that will help sustain success in modern apprenticeships and in HNC/HND study and beyond.

Education context

In Scotland, secondary school is organised into six school years, S1–S6 (first year to sixth year). In Scotland, sixth year covers only one academic year.

Many state secondary schools work in school-college partnerships with tertiary colleges in different areas of provision, particularly in vocational areas.

NPAs are taken in all Scottish tertiary colleges and in several state schools, or in school-college partnerships.

NPAs support the aims and principles of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), and also the Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce agenda. See ‘What is Curriculum for Excellence?’ and also Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce for more information.

The Scottish qualifications system is designed to support CfE, and provides an opportunity for greater variety and diversity in curriculum planning, which may lead to different patterns of presentation for qualifications, including increased exposure for candidates to different types of qualification. The aim is to ensure an appropriate curriculum for each student. This means that students in schools may take NPAs in any of the three years of the Senior Phase of secondary school – S4-S6, or across more than one academic year. In tertiary colleges, where NPAs are more likely to be taken, they will generally be studied over one academic year. To date, NPAs in schools have most commonly been taken in S4 or S5, and often concurrently with other National Qualifications, such as National 5, Higher, or National Certificates. In colleges, NPAs are usually taken as part of programmes of full-time or part-time learning. This involves students taking a range of credits from SQA units either directly related to the subject studied, or which are designed to develop a wider range of core and transferable skills.

Awarding organisation
  • SQA

SQA allocates a unique qualification number to each subject as a 4 + 2 code: Gxxx (‘G’ refers to Group Award and ‘46’ refers to both Group Award (the ‘4’) and level (the ‘6’) – National Progression Award at SCQF Level 6).

NPAs are available at SCQF Levels 2-6. At SCQF Level 6, they are made up of National Units, Higher National (HN) Units, National (Workplace) Units, or Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) Units with a minimum of 12 SCQF credit points (120 notional learning hours), with no maximum size.

NPAs may be made up of mandatory units only or a combination of mandatory and optional units. At least half the SCQF credit points (i.e. more than half of all the credit points) must be at the level of the NPA, and these can come from either the mandatory or optional sections of the qualification, or both.

They may include Higher National (HN) units, National units, National (Workplace) units, or Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) units, though the latter should ideally be SCQF credit-rated.

All NPAs incorporate opportunities to develop core skills, particularly to meet employment and progression needs.

NPAs must include a minimum of two units, but there is no maximum, and component units may be of different credit values, though normally six or 12 SCQF credit points, depending on the fitness for purpose of the unit.

Units at SCQF Levels 5 and 7 may be included in NPAs at SCQF Level 6, though more than half of the credit points must be at SCQF Level 6 or higher.

All NPAs are developed according to SQA’s Design Principles for the qualification, as well as the SCQF level descriptors, to ensure the consistency of standards, validity, and reliability across subjects.

Subject areas

National Progression Awards at SCQF Level 6 are currently available in 52 subjects. These are:

  • Achieving Excellence in Sport
  • Acting and Performance
  • Animal Technology
  • Art and Design: Digital Media
  • Business with Information Technology
  • Computer Games Development
  • Conservation of Masonry
  • Creative Hairdressing
  • Cyber Security
  • Digital Media Production
  • Digital Passport
  • Enterprise and Business
  • Events
  • Exercise and Fitness Leadership
  • Financial Services
  • Food Manufacture
  • Geographical Information Systems: an Introduction
  • Health and Social Care: Promoting Reablement
  • Health and Social Care: Skills for Practice
  • Horse Care
  • Human Resources and the Law
  • Jewellery: Advanced Techniques
  • Journalism
  • Laboratory Science
  • Legal Studies
  • Local Food Production
  • Mobile Technology
  • Music Business
  • Music for Wellbeing
  • Music Performing
  • Musical Theatre
  • Organising Volunteering Events in Sport
  • PC Passport
  • PC Passport: Advanced
  • Play in a Sports Environment
  • Professional Computer Fundamentals
  • Professional Theatre Preparation
  • Scottish Bagpipes
  • Scottish Pipe Band Drumming
  • Social Services and Healthcare
  • Social Services, Children and Young People
  • Software Development
  • Sound Production: Live
  • Sound Production: Recording
  • Sports Coaching: Football
  • Sports Coaching: Rugby
  • Sports Coaching: Swimming
  • Sports Development
  • Technical Theatre in Practice
  • Theory and Approaches to Youth Work
  • Water Operations
  • Woodland Operation
  • SCQF Level 6

SCQF Level 6 is the level at which Highers sit on the SCQF.

SCQF Level 6 is equivalent to Level 3 of the RQF, which is the level at which A levels sit.


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

The flexibility of NPAs enables other qualifications, including National Courses such as Higher or certain graded units, to be included in their structure. Graded achievement from component National Courses is not, and should not, be taken as a proxy for the overall qualification.


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 a National Course – such as a Higher – is included in a specific NPA, course assessment, arrangements are explained in the QIP for Highers.

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

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

The qualifications are not graded.

Resit arrangements

Remediation of unit assessment allows for a second attempt, with a further attempt in exceptional circumstances.

Guided/notional learning hours notes

At least 12 SCQF credit points with no maximum size.

At least 120 notional learning hours with no maximum size.

UCAS Tariff points

Unknown qualification

Grade Points

Unknown qualification

Grade Points

Unknown qualification

Grade Points


Key issues for UK HE admissions

NPAs 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 which are above the level of the award have been calculated at UCAS grade band 7.

Candidates would generally not be expected to apply to undergraduate degree study directly with a NPA at SCQF Level 6, unless it is at least an equivalent size to the National Certificate, and unless it is taken as part of a wider programme of learning, including Highers. However, 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 at Scottish HEPs directly into the second or third year with their HNC or HND. 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 NPAs at school – will take them alongside Highers. Also, other students will have taken Highers at school prior to studying for a NPA at a tertiary college. There is therefore likely to be a relatively mixed pattern of qualifications for applicants to HEPs who hold a NPA.

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 are likely to emerge.

SQA National Progression Award subjects

Band C

Band B

Band A

Business Skills (GL8H 46)

Achieving Excellence in Sport (G9G5 46)

Acting and Performance (G9KM 46)

Conservation Masonry (G8RC 46)

Business with Information Technology (G9WW 46)

Animal Technology (G9XY 46)

Laboratory Science (G9G6 46)

Creative and Digital Media (GM16 46)

Art and Design: Digital Media (G96W 46)

Water Operations (GE5F 46)

Creative Hairdressing (GG0E 46)

Computer Games Development (G9RT 46)


Enterprise and Business (GA84 46)

Cyber Security (GK7Y 46)


Financial Services (GL6W 46)

Digital Media Production (G9J5 46)


Food Manufacture (GF4N 46)

Digital Passport (GJ7Y 46)


Health & Social Care: Skills for Practice (GL09 46)

Events (GM20 46)


Health and Social Care: Promoting Reablement (GG0G 46)

Exercise and Fitness Leadership (G9GC 46)


Health and Social Care: Promoting Reablement (GK2V 46)

Geographical Information Systems: An Introduction (GC80 46)


Mobile Technology (GG0H 46)

Horse Care (GF4H 46)


Music for Wellbeing (GF8N 46)

Human Resources and the Law (GF46 46)


PC Passport: Advanced (G8HA 46)

Jewellery: Advanced Techniques (GF5R 46)


Social Services and Healthcare (GL3W 46)

Journalism (G9MC 46)


Social Services, Children and Young People (GL79 46)

Legal Studies (GF44 46)


Sports Coaching: Football (G8V0 46)

Local Food Production (GJ3V 46)


Sports Coaching: Rugby Union (G8V5 46)

Music Business (G9KN 46)


Sports Coaching: Swimming (G8V7 46)

Music Performing (G9L6 46)


Woodland Operations (GJ14 46)

Musical Theatre (G9KP 46)



Organising Volunteering Events in Sport (G9GD 46)



PC Passport (GL33 46)



Play in a Sports Environment (G9GE 46)



Professional Computer Fundamentals (GG0F 46)



Professional Theatre Preparation (G9KT 46)



Scottish Bagpipes (G9H9 46)



Scottish Pipe Band Drumming (G9H2 46)



Software Development (GL4W 46)



Sound Production: Live (G9L5 46)



Sound Production: Recording (G9L4 46)



Sports Development (G9GF 46)



Technical Theatre in Practice (G9KR 46)



Theory and Approaches to Youth Work (GJ8D 46)

    Travel Agency Skills (GM6K 46)
Timing of assessments/results for learners

NPA assessment is internal and occurs throughout the qualification.

Qualification dates notes

This qualification is current.

Reporting and certification information

Certification of achievement in NPAs is published on an ongoing basis.

For NPAs at SCQF Level 6, 1,370 were awarded in 2015.

View the entries and achievement rates for NPAs by year.

Progression information

This NPA at SCQF Level 6 qualification provides students with the opportunity to pursue a diversified curriculum at school, as well as an opportunity to specialise in a particular vocational subject area in school or tertiary college.

It also complements other SCQF Level 6 qualifications, and learning and can be used to support applications to higher education courses, particularly short-cycle HE in Scottish HEPs (particularly tertiary colleges).

In addition, this qualification provides students with the opportunity for progression into further education, employment, apprenticeships, and other forms of training.

Further information

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

SQA website.

Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) website.