Getting on course

Whether you want to be a mechanic, chef, journalist or lawyer, enrolling in your local college could help you get there. So what’s the score?

As the year progresses, the question of “What next?” will be playing on the minds of Scots near and far. If uni isn’t your thing and you’re not ready for the world of work just yet, there are still ways to continue with education. It’s only a college application form away!


Colleges offer a wide range of opportunities, both at an academic and a more practical vocational level. In Scotland, the education system follows the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework, with exams split into categories from SCQF level 1 up to 12. Access 1 is SCQF 1, while a doctorate is level 12. At college, you can study from National Certificate (starting at SCQF 2) up to degree level (SCFQ level 9), so there’s something to suit all abilities. Take a look at the table to see how the different qualifications relate to each other…

SCQF level SQA qualifications Higher Education Scottish Vocational Qualifications
12 Doctorate
11 Masters SVQ 5
10 Honours degree
9 Ordinary degree
7 Advanced Higher HNC SVQ 3
6 Higher NC
5 Intermediate 2Credit Standard Grade SVQ 2
4 Intermediate 1General Standard Grade SVQ 1
3 Access 3Foundation Standard Grade
2 Access 2
1 Access 1

You can continue with the courses you’re doing at school since there are Intermediate, Higher and Advanced Higher programmes on offer. College offers the opportunity to start again, or if you fancy topping up the results you already have or would like to try out a different class that’s not available at school then it’s worth looking into.

For something that teaches more practical skills, what about a National Qualification or National Certificate course? These are first level or access courses which usually require some Standard Grades at general level, but some require no qualifications at all. At City of Glasgow College, you could try Introduction to Photography, Business Administration or Access to Sports and Leisure, all at NC level.


A step up from NQ and NC you’ll find HNCs then HNDs. Higher National Certificates and Diplomas are for those with a couple of Highers. They offer a mix of skills-based and theoretical learning, with HNCs running over a year and HNDs usually taking two years. Edinburgh’s Stevenson College runs highly-regarded courses in a wide range of subjects, like events management and tourism, which could take you on to further study or directly into employment.

There’s also the option of studying an SVQ (Scottish Vocational Qualification). This can be studied part-time while you work, full-time, or through a Modern Apprenticeship. SVQs come in all sorts of guises – Inverness College operates full-time SVQs in hairdressing, part-time programmes in fisheries management for those employed in a relevant fishery or a block-release course in painting and decorating.


Education doesn’t have to stop after you’ve finished your college course. An HNC or HND can gain you access to a university degree too. Many Scottish colleges have links with universities, enabling students with an HND to go directly into the second or third year of a degree.

Some courses at Jewel and Esk College in Edinburgh, for instance, offer direct entry to the University of Abertay. An Access to Humanities course would help get you into first year of a BSc in Behavioural Science or Psychology, while an HND in Music can take you straight into third year of Abertay’s BSc in sound production.


Just take a look at celeb graduate Dermot O’Leary on page eight to see how college can lead towards big things. Get in touch with colleges in your area and see what they have to offer or go online and search for your dream course. You never know, college could have the X Factor for you…



18-year-old Claire Davis reveals how her Professional Cookery course at West Lothian College has inspired her to take on further study.

“While I was studying Professional Cookery, I had the opportunity to learn about working ‘front of house’ dealing with customers. I had a great time doing this and it sparked my interest in a career in retail.

“Having completed my SVQ2 and discovering what career path I wanted to follow, through my lecturers I found out about the new range of retail courses at West Lothian College.

“I believe the HNC Retail Management course will be vital in helping me make the leap into a retail career because it will teach me aspects of managerial and supervisory roles a lot more quickly than I could learn by going into industry and working my way up. I’m hopeful the course will also help me go on to university where I’m hoping to study Retail and Business Management at degree level.

“I’m really happy West Lothian College has decided to start this new course and I’m looking forward to starting.”

Visit for further information on the courses available.



Talented drummer Ruairidh Saunders explains how a music course at Stevenson College Edinburgh, is helping him to achieve his ambitions.

Aspiring musician Ruairidh Saunders, 19, believes his music performance course at Stevenson College will enable him to fulfil his dream of becoming a professional musician.

“I love playing and composing music,” he explains. “After mustering the courage to leave high school half way through fifth year, I was blown away with the level of support I received from the staff at Stevenson College, especially as I have Asperger’s Syndrome.”

Fellow student John Cashman agrees: “It’s important as a musician to receive as much exposure as possible so you can network and find your next big job. The great thing about the course at Stevenson College is that you get to perform often. By doing that, you’re learning how to deal with nerves and building your confidence.”

The college offers a wide range of music-related courses, including a BA (Hons) in music performance, HND in classical or pop music and a certificate in creative digital sound engineering. To find out more about Stevenson College’s music department, head to


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