The SQA, with a pound;2m budget, replaced the Scottish Examination Board and Scottish Vocational Education Council last year. It is in the red at a time when it is about to take over major responsibility for the Higher Still exams, is in the midst of major staff changes, and has embarked on a vital upgrade of its IT system.
Ron Tuck, the SQA's chief executive, is appealing to the Scottish Office to step in. He says the authority has been able to stave off the worst so far by dipping into the reserves. But that option will not be available in two years' time.
In an interview with the TES Scotland, Mr Tuck revealed that running more than 800 Scottish Vocational Qualifications made a major contribution to the shortfall. "They are not really commercially viable," he said.
The SQA is also facing a major overhaul of SVQs in line with the Beaumont report, which recommended that VQs throughout the UK should be made simpler, more flexible and more customer friendly. This complex and time consuming task will require the revision of occupational standards and the re-accreditation of VQs. The number of SVQs is likely to be reduced to 650, the language will be simplified and external assessment will be introduced.
Mr Tuck seemed confident the SQA could get out of the red, on the basis that it ended last year with a deficit of pound;400,000 against a projected pound;2m. There are also one off costs from Higher Still, the development of the SQA's IT system and the merger of the two former examining bodies.
Mr Tuck stressed that "we remain committed to offering the full range of SVQs, although we recognise there's an issue about how that's resourced".
SQA one year on, page 4