Qualifications Explained

Edinburgh College offers a wide range of nationally and internationally recognised courses across a wide variety of subjects. The course you choose will depend on your current qualifications, experience and career aspirations.

The majority of qualifications we offer at Edinburgh College are from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). We also offer qualifications from other professional and awarding bodies including BTEC, City and Guilds and VTCT.

Advanced Highers, Highers and Intermediates

We offer a range of subjects can be studied at Intermediate, Higher and Advanced Higher level. These are designed to prepare you for HN or Degree courses and can be studied part-time, in the evening or a flexible learning basis.


BTECs (Business and Technology Education Council) are awarded by the Edexcel exam board in over 100 countries. They are vocational and work-related courses, designed to accommodate the needs of employers and allow students to progress to further and higher education. At Edinburgh College, we offer BTEC Level 2 and 3 Certificates and Diplomas.

City & Guilds

City & Guilds is a leading vocational education and training organisation who help individuals develop their talents and abilities for future career progression. City & Guilds qualifications can be undertaken both in the College and the workplace or a mix of the two. Qualifications on offer at Edinburgh College include the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM), National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs), Vocationally Related Qualifications (VRQs) and SVQs.

Degree Programmes

Edinburgh College offers a number of degree programmes in partnership with universities including the University of Aberdeen, University of Abertay, Edinburgh Napier University, Heriot-Watt University and Queen Margaret University.

We also offer Associate Student places which guarantee you a place at one of our partner universities on completion of your HNC/D at Edinburgh College.

Please see the individual course listings for more information.

Higher National Qualifications

Higher National Qualifications are offered as one-year Higher National Certificates (HNC) and two-year Higher National Diplomas (HND). Most HNs are work-related and specially designed to meet the needs of employers and are usually equivalent to the first two years of a university degree programme. On successful completion of an HNC/HND you can progress to university at 1st, 2nd or 3rd year or straight into employment.

HNs can count towards membership of professional and technical bodies and other employer organisations. An HNC/D is earned through the successful completion of Higher National (HN) Units and a Graded Unit.

Full-time HNCs can take one year to complete and two years part-time (or in other situations such as flexible learning).

Full-time HNDs take two years full time to complete and can also be taken part-time over a longer period.

National Qualifications

National Qualifications (NQs) cover a broad range of subjects to suit your skills and interests and include Standard Grades, National Units, National Courses and Group Awards. At Edinburgh College, we offer these courses at various levels and the level of the particular unit is given in the course description. An NQ will prepare you for entry to HNC/HND programmes and can cover training related to employment.

Professional Development Awards

Professional Development Awards (PDAs) are ideal if you're already in a career or vocation and wish to broaden your knowledge and skills. PDA qualifications can be at different levels from NQ to HN and may include work-based units. They assess against national occupational standards or other professional body standards.

Professional Qualifications

Edinburgh College is also widely recognised for the quality of our academic and vocational programmes. Our provision has accreditation from a number of professional bodies including AAT, Avid Pro, CIM, CMI, ILM, NEBOSH and REHIS. Please see course listings for details.

Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP)

A one-year SWAP Access Programme (often called "Access Course") can lead to a guaranteed place on an HN or degree course at college or university. SWAP programmes are designed specifically for adults who do not have the required entry qualifications for university and have been out of full-time education for three years or more.

Scottish Vocational Qualifications

Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) are awards that recognise your ability to do a specific job. They're designed in consultation with employers and are based on national standards set directly by representatives from industry, commerce and education. SVQs are awarded following evidence that your work-based activities these standards and enhance your job prospects.

SVQs are available to people of all ages and at all stages of their careers. They are available across five levels, which reflect differing aspects from basic work activities to senior managerial skills. 


Most qualifications we offer are accredited and awarded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). SQA is responsible for developing and awarding vocational qualifications in Scotland.

All SQA units and qualifications and compare with a level in the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). The number of SCQF credit points shows how much learning has to be undertaken done, while the SCQF level shows the level of difficulty how difficult it is.

Find out more at, or click here to view our SCQF table.


SQA is the national accreditation and awarding body in Scotland. SQA develops, accredits, assesses and certifies all Scottish qualifications except university degrees. These courses allow you to build up a range of units leading to your qualification and are designed to prepare you for further study at college or university or to progress directly to employment.

All SQA units and qualifications relate to a level in the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). The SCQF Framework allows you to relate your current qualifications to our courses and progression routes to university. View the framework here or visit for details.


The Vocational Training Charitable Trust (VTCT) are a leading international organisation who awards a range of Hair and Beauty courses at Edinburgh College. As a VTCT learner, you can study qualifications that will teach you the skills and knowledge necessary for success in your chosen career, while gaining an industry-recognised qualification.

For further information please contact the College t: 0131 669 4400 | Terms of use and disclaimer
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