SQA National Progression Award (NPA)


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.


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

Further information

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’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.