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Dollar Academy Launches a New Qualification


  • Scottish Government funding has allowed the Diploma to be credit-rated at SCQF Level 6, equivalent to a Scottish Higher

  • The innovative one-year diploma is offered by the Futures Institute at Dollar Academy (FIDA), which also provides young people from across Scotland with unique opportunities to tackle projects based on real world challenges

-R - Ian Munro, Rector of Dollar Academy and FIDA founder and Dollar Academy pupils Fraser and Laurie, form VI, meet Cabinet Secretary for Education, Jenny Gilruth
Ian Munro, Rector of Dollar Academy and FIDA founder and Dollar Academy pupils Fraser and Laurie, form VI, meet Cabinet Secretary for Education, Jenny Gilruth

The Futures Institute at Dollar Academy has launched a new qualification – the International Sustainability Diploma. Open to learners across Scotland and beyond, the Diploma will be piloted in a number of schools in the 2024/25 session ahead of a wider launch in 2025/26.

The Diploma programme offers a different style of learning and teaching, aligned with the recommendations of the Hayward Review (2023). Rooted in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and co-designed with experts from industry and universities, students learn through developing solutions to real-world problems.

Students who complete the programme will receive a qualification worth 24 SCQF points at Level 6 (equivalent to one Higher). This carries UCAS points, enabling progression to further and higher education, as well as international recognition. 

In addition to building students’ knowledge and understanding of the complex social, environmental, economic and political aspects of sustainability, the Diploma develops important skills such as independent research, problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration and communication. Entrepreneurship is a golden thread that runs throughout the programme, and this element is co-delivered with the University of Stirling. 

Instead of examinations, students build a portfolio of work and have opportunities to present this throughout the year. Students begin by exploring the concepts of sustainability through the UN SDGs and create a social media campaign to raise awareness of an SDG of their choosing. They also undertake a ‘design sprint’ challenge to learn the principles of Design Thinking – a method for solving problems that puts the user at the centre of the process, and involves adapting solutions in response to research, testing and feedback. 

They will then go on to choose three ‘Global Challenge’ projects from a range of options, each rooted in the SDGs – for instance, designing a new wave-powered method for water desalination, an app to support people experiencing climate anxiety, or a monument to make a statement about modern slavery. In each case, students research the issue and the needs of their target users or audience, generate ideas, and, through a process of feedback and testing, develop and refine their solution.  Students have the opportunity to build and develop their skills as they move from one project to the next.

Finally, students learn about the crucial role of business and social enterprise in achieving the SDGs. They select one of their three project outcomes to develop further as a business or social enterprise, working with the Enterprise Team from the University of Stirling. Students present their proposal and have the opportunity to receive feedback from entrepreneurs.

The Diploma is offered by the Futures Institute at Dollar Academy, which began in 2021 as a pioneering initiative to tackle three fundamental challenges in education – providing equitable access and closing the poverty related attainment gap; finding compelling alternatives to traditional teaching and exam systems; and addressing sustainability. Offering real-world challenges in the form of workshops, skills-based courses, design challenges and competitions, over 600 pupils and 80 teachers from across Scotland, and further afield, have registered on FIDA’s online platform and have benefited from free access to FIDA resources. FIDA’s online content has been viewed over 75,000 times. 

Ian Munro, Rector of Dollar Academy and FIDA founder, said, “Over the past year we have been working with universities, colleges and industry to deliver the FIDA Sustainability Diploma and we are thrilled to launch the accredited course to young people across the country. 

“The Diploma allows learners to collaborate, to problem solve, to manage time and resources, and showcase the skills that will be useful for the challenges they will face beyond school. It is an ambitious qualification in terms of design, content and delivery, that will enable our youngsters to be a real force for good in an ever-changing world.” 

FIDA secured Scottish Government funding to support the credit-rating of the Diploma onto the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). The team worked closely with Glasgow Clyde College, the credit-rating body, to ensure that the learning programme meets the robust criteria for a qualification at Level 6.

Cabinet Secretary for Education, Jenny Gilruth said, “The Scottish Government is committed to developing a system of qualifications and assessment that ensures pupils are well-equipped to tackle future challenges as they progress through education. Young people are facing a range of global challenges, including the climate emergency, which is why we have supported Dollar Academy to gain accreditation of its sustainability diploma, as part of the implementation of our Learning for Sustainability Action Plan.

“I am pleased that vitally important education resources such as these can be accessed for free by pupils across the country.”

One of the schools piloting the qualification in 2024/25 is Inverness Royal Academy. Depute Rector Morven Neil said:

“This is possibly one of the most important courses we could offer our pupils and we are delighted to be part of this pilot.  The world is grappling with the urgent need for sustainable solutions and our current generation of school pupils are extremely aware of this.  This surge in interest among school pupils is indicative of a generation that is deeply committed to safeguarding the planet’s future. They’re not just passive observers; they are seeking knowledge, solutions, and ways to reduce their ecological impact.  This Diploma will allow our students to be prepared for future career sectors, policy and personal challenges in a world that faces a climate crisis.”

Other schools participating in the pilot are

Speyside High School,

Alloa Academy,

Braes High School (Falkirk);

Clifton Hall School (Edinburgh);

and Dollar Academy.

You can find out more about FIDA here:


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