SQA (the examinations regulator) has now shared how it is planning to calculate grades for National 5s, Highers, and Advanced Highers.
Relevant to

The Scottish Qualifications Authority has provided an important update regarding the awarding of qualifications for 2020.

This includes the process on how estimated grades will be determined.

SQA is in regular discussion with UCAS, Colleges Scotland, and Universities Scotland, to help students progress to the next stage of their education or employment.

SQA has said it is working to ensure students receive their grades no later than 4 August 2020. UCAS expects these qualification to be treated the same as any other grade issued in any other year, and for the normal Confirmation and Clearing process to run broadly the same as it did last year. 

What does this mean for your application?

SWAP Access Programmes

How grades will be calculated

Successful completion of a SWAP programme is based on academic development, preparation for higher education, and a student profile. Work is being undertaken by the partnership of universities and colleges to ensure no SWAP student is unfairly disadvantaged by coronavirus. Academic completion and the student profile will take into account the change in circumstances, as well as acknowledging the challenging personal circumstances of SWAP students, many of whom are key workers. Students are asked to engage fully with their programme college tutors to maintain their development and progress.

When will grades be released?

SWAP will progress profile grades to universities from July onwards. Appropriate flexibility will be provided to our college partners and students in providing final profile grades to our university partners. 

Further guidance

Students should contact their college tutors for up-to-date information.

SWAP offices continue to be open to support all SWAP students. SWAP Directors can be contacted by any student to discuss their issues or concerns.

SWAPEast programmes: Lesley Dunbar [email protected]

SWAPWest programmes: Kenny Anderson on 0141 564 7206 or at [email protected]

Scottish HNC/HND

SQA and Colleges Scotland have now shared how they are planning to approach  assessing HNC, HND, NC, NPA, and NQ units

This means that college colleagues will be able to take a holistic approach, where necessary, in determining grades. This will enable colleges to use their professional judgement to assess other learner evidence, including knowledge of their learners’ progress and achievements to date.

SQA, in collaboration with Colleges Scotland and college colleagues, has provided guidance materials to all colleges in Scotland, which provides them with further information on this change in approach for this session.

Resulting and certification

Once holistic assessment decisions have been finalised, student results for the planned units contained within a group award will be submitted to SQA through normal resulting channels. Certification will be undertaken by SQA in line with normal arrangements. Any changes to these will be communicated to colleges.

It is essential that accurate and complete data is entered for certification to ensure that students are awarded the certificates they deserve, enabling them to take their next steps into further or higher education, employment, or apprenticeships.

External verification

Again, in line with our previous statement, given the current situation, we will operate a reduced external verification model for HNs, NCs, and NPAs, that will enable a reasonable level of quality assurance to be undertaken remotely, to support the safe and secure delivery of our qualifications, while recognising the current challenges we all face.

Next steps

SQA is currently reviewing the subject areas where alternative approaches to assessment may not be suitable and therefore a holistic approach cannot be taken – for example, where there are matters of health and safety to be considered. Further guidance on this will be provided to you in the coming days.

In addition, we are in discussions with regulators and other relevant bodies, reviewing the position for other vocational qualifications, including Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs), Professional Development Awards (PDAs), and licence to practise qualifications. We will provide an update and guidance for these as they become available.

Further guidance for students

We appreciate that students may have questions about these arrangements, and they should contact their own colleges who will have helpful FAQs to answer these.

You can read more about Scottish HNC/HNDs on the SQA website. 

Other qualifications 

If you are taking other qualifications, you might have questions about how these will be assessed and how grades will be awarded. The table below will give you an indication of the latest updates from the awarding organisations. If yours isn't listed, or you need more information, we recommend you contact the awarding organisation directly and they will be able to give you the most up-to-date advice.

We recognise that some students may feel disappointed that they haven’t been able to complete their assessments. If you do not feel your calculated grades reflect your expected performance, you will have the opportunity to appeal or you may choose to sit your assessments at the earliest reasonable opportunity. If you do this, you should be aware that taking your assessments later may impact you progressing to university in September as planned. 


The Scottish Government (SG) has been developing a new student website – www.studentinformation.gov.scot. It's currently a beta site, but offers a range of financial information to both further and higher education students.

It includes a budget calculator and a funding checker, which tells you how much you could potentially need, and gives an estimate on how much you could potentially receive.

The Student Awards Agency Scotland will endeavour to continue to fund students on time, and you will be kept updated throughout. The Further and Higher Education Minister is working closely with the Scottish Funding Council, college and university principals and unions.

Universities are working very closely with the Scottish Qualifications Authority, schools, Government, and others to make this work. We want to ensure that even in these extraordinary circumstances, students are able to demonstrate their abilities and progress to higher education.

Attending a UCAS event?

To protect the health and wellbeing of all those attending, we’ve postponed UCAS higher education exhibitions until 31 July. 

You can attend a virtual open day to find out more about unis, or chat to current students with Unibuddy. 

Search for virtual open days

Chat to current students 

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