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Qualifications Explained

We offer a wide range of nationally and internationally recognised courses across a wide variety of subjects.

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

All SQA units and qualifications 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 done, while the SCQF level shows how difficult it is.

To learn more about how you can use the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) to understand and compare your qualifications, visit the SCQF website. 

Support for veterans

If you are returning to education from the armed forces, you can find out more information about options available to you on the SCQF support for veterans website.

We also offer qualifications from other professional and awarding bodies, including BTEC, City and Guilds and VTCT.

Advanced Higher, Higher and National 5

We offer a range of subjects that can be studied at Advanced Higher, Higher and National 5 level. These are designed to prepare you for HN or Degree courses and can be studied part-time, in the evening or on 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.

City & Guilds

City & Guilds is a leading vocational education and training organisation. They help individuals develop their talents and abilities for future career progression. City & Guilds qualifications can be taken at college and in the workplace, or a mix of the two.

The City & Guilds qualifications we offer include the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM), National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs), Vocationally Related Qualifications (VRQs) and Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs).

Degree Programmes

We offer a number of degree programmes in partnership with universities. We have partnerships with the University of Aberdeen, University of Abertay, Edinburgh Napier University, Herriot-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 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. They are usually equivalent to the first two years of a university degree programme. On successful completion of an HNC/HND, students can progress to university at 1st, 2nd or 3rd year, or go 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 or two years part-time (or in other situations such as flexible learning).

Full-time HNDs take two years to complete, but can be taken part-time over a longer period of time.

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. 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 designed for those already in a career who wish to extend and enhance their skills and knowledge in their area of work. 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

We are 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.

View Professional Qualifications.

Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP)

The Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) supports access to higher education for adult learners. A one-year SWAP course (often called Access Course) can lead to a guaranteed place on a HN or degree course at college or university. SWAP courses are designed for adults who do not have the required entry qualifications for university or who 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 are 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 meet 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.

Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF)

The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) is a way of comparing Scottish qualifications. It does this by giving each qualification a level and a number of credit points. The level of a qualification shows how difficult the learning is, and the credit points show how much learning is involved in achieving that qualification.

The SCQF can help you understand your qualifications, including those you gain from a college course.

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is the national accreditation and awarding body in Scotland. The SQA develops, assess and certifies all Scottish qualifications, except university degrees. Theses 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 and university, or to go straight into employment.


The Vocational Training Charitable Trust (VTCT) are a leading international organisation who award 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.