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British University Qualifications

British universities offer a number of different undergraduate and postgraduate degree awards.

Undergraduate degree awards

The commonest undergraduate degree is called a bachelor's degree. The best known bachelors' degrees are the BA (Bachelor of Arts) and the B.Sc (Bachelor of Science).

A bachelor's degree usually marks the completion of three or four years of undergraduate study. There are five divisions of the bachelor's degree award:

  • first class honours (I) - this is achievable when most module marks are 70% and above
  • upper second class honours (II i) - this is achievable when most module marks are 60% and above
  • lower second class honours (II ii) - this is achievable when most module marks are 50% and above
  • third class honours (III) - this is achievable when most module marks are 40% and above
  • pass - this is usually due to a mark of less than 30% in a module.

Postgraduate degree awards

A postgraduate degree is called a master's degree or a doctorate (doctor's degree). The commonest masters' degrees are the MA (Master of Arts) and the M.Sc (Master of Science).

Master's degree programmes usually involve one or two years of postgraduate study. The pass mark for assignments is usually 50%. A consistently good record (70% and above for assignments) can lead to a Masters degree being awarded with Distinction.
Most departments in British universities also offer the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D). This degree is usually granted after three or more years of postgraduate study (depending on the individual student), and involves some original research. People who have been awarded a doctor's degree can be called "Doctor" (instead of Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms).

Every British university produces undergraduate and postgraduate prospectuses with precise details of every degree awarded in every department. The name given to a degree award varies. For example, people who have been awarded a BA degree from Oxford or Cambridge University can obtain an MA degree simply by paying a fee. Some universities do not award any BA and MA degrees, and others do not award any B.Sc and M.Sc degrees. In some university departments the name of the degree gives a more precise indication of the subject specialism - an undergraduate degree in Music, for example, is sometimes called a B.Mus.