The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is the authority which issues examination papers and awards examination results to students in Scotland.
The main levels at which students in Scotland can take examinations are referred to as Standard Grade (sat at age 16), Higher Grade (age 17 or 18), and Advanced Higher Grade (age 18). The Authority also oversees the Higher Education qualifications of Higher National Certificate and Higher National Diploma, as well as Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2 and Access 3, exams sat at the same age as Highers, but set at a lower level of difficulty.
Up until their merger in 1998, the two major Scottish examination authorities were the SEB (Scottish Examination Board) and the Scottish Vocational Education Council (SCOTVEC). It is the former of the two that issued the Standard Grade and Higher Grade examinations. The year after Higher Grade was called CSYS (Certificate of Sixth Year Studies) until a reform of Scottish exams (the National Qualifications or Higher Still reforms) replaced it with a broadly equivalent qualification called Advanced Higher. Some curriculum changes were also made to the Higher, but this was not renamed.
A legacy of its two precursor bodies, the Authority's offices remain split over two sites, one in Glasgow and one in Dalkeith.
The introduction of the reformed examinations system in 2000 was criticised in the press and by the government after a series of administrative and computer errors led to several thousand incorrect Higher and Intermediate certificates being sent out. The crisis took several months to resolve, and several management figures including the Chief Executive Ron Tuck resigned or were fired. Again in 2003, a series of blunders led to thousands of students missing out on a university place (or being given one they did not deserve) because of incorrect Higher exam results. The problems did not recur in the 2004 examinations process.
- Scottish Qualifications Authority (http://www.sqa.org.uk/) - Official website