Scotland's international lead in developing a qualifications framework has helped underpin its success story of almost one in two young people taking up higher education, according to Wendy Alexander, enterprise and lifelong learning minister.
Ms Alexander, who was speaking at a conference to launch the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework, said Scotland's lead over England in participation rates could not be divorced from the framework, and from knitting together different parts of the tertiary sector.
"That ability to move from school to degree course to postgraduate level is so much easier in the Scottish context," she said.
All mainstream Scottish qualifications come under a unified framework. The SCQF aims to help employers, learners and the public to understand qualifications and to improve transfer between different areas.
Bill Stevely, principal of the Robert Gordon University and chair of Universities Scotland's learning and teaching committee, said transfer from further to higher education had greatly improved in recent years, but that it was "slow and bureaucratic".
Andrew Cubie, convener of the SCQF joint advisory committee, said the SCQF created a national language that would help students to move across courses without unnecessary barriers.
Professor Stevely said the SCQF was sometimes unfairly criticised because of lack of understanding of the difference between general and specific credit. A student with an HND in business studies was likely to shift smoothly to a business studies degree with two years' credit, although they might have to take "bridging" studies. But their credit could not be directly applied to another discipline, such as engineering.