Undergraduate courses

Programmes taken at undergraduate level are available in a variety of subjects, with most leading to a degree. However, there are some which result in qualifications below degree level.

Most undergraduate degree courses lead to honours degrees in three years. In modern foreign languages, an extra year is usually spent overseas. In subjects such as medicine and architecture, courses may take even longer.

Most undergraduate courses are taught with classes and tutorials to attend. Undergraduate qualifications allow you to develop your skills and knowledge in specific academic or work-related areas. You are able to direct your own learning to develop your analytical and writing skills as well as subject knowledge. Some courses offer valuable hands-on experience that is needed to continue into certain industries. Assessment is through written assignments and exams, with practical tasks, design work, experiments, research and performance possibly being a requirement.

Most honours degrees are called Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc). Some subjects differ, for example, Bachelor of Education (BEd), the LLB in Law and BEng in Engineering. In Scotland it normally takes four years to achieve an honours degree and you will find that some honours degree titles are MA (Master of Arts) as well as Bachelors.

A Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE) may be awarded after one year of undergraduate study and a Diploma in Higher Education (DipHE) may be awarded after two years. These are sometimes referred to as intermediate-level qualifications.

Qualifications gained through undergraduate study are highly regarded by employers and they are normally compulsory if you want to continue into postgraduate higher education.

Degree classification

The British undergraduate degree classification system is a grading scheme used to distinguish between the achievements of undergraduate degree holders (such as those gaining bachelor's degrees or undergraduate master's degrees) in the United Kingdom.

The biggest distinction made is whether the degree is awarded with or without honours. Nowadays, nearly all candidates sit for honours; an ordinary (or pass) degree (i.e. a degree without honours) is usually awarded to a candidate who marginally fails the honours examination, or significant parts of it. A candidate who fails badly is usually allowed to retake the examination for a pass degree, as most universities prohibit such a student from receiving honours.

Most universities award a class of degree based on the average mark of the assessed work a candidate has completed. Below is a list of the possible classifications with common abbreviations. Rough percentages for each class are also listed, these percentages vary between subjects and universities. Honours degrees are in bold:

At most institutions, the system allows a small amount of discretion. A candidate may be elevated to the next degree class if his or her average marks are close to the higher class, and if they have submitted several pieces of work worthy of the higher class. However, even students with a high average mark may be demoted a class if they fail to pass all parts of the course.

There are also variations between universities, especially in Scotland, where honours are usually reserved only for courses that last four years or more, with a three-year course leading to the awarding of an Ordinary degree. Achievements other than the average mark are often needed for a student to be awarded honours. In Scotland, it is possible to start university a year younger than in the rest of the United Kingdom, as the Scottish Higher exams are often taken at age 17 (as opposed to 18), so Scottish students often end a four-year course at the same age as a student from elsewhere in the UK taking a three-year course, assuming no gap years.

When a candidate is awarded a degree with honours, "(Hons)" may be suffixed to their designatory letters; e.g. BA (Hons), BSc (Hons), MA (Hons). An MA (Hons) would generally indicate a degree award from certain Scottish universities.

At some universities, candidates who successfully complete one or more years of degree-level study, but do not complete the full degree course, may be awarded a lower qualification: a Certificate of Higher Education or Higher National Certificate for one year of study, or a Diploma of Higher Education or Higher National Diploma for two years.

First Class honours

First class honours, referred to as a "First," is the highest honours classification and indicates high academic achievement. In 2010 and 2011, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) reported that approximately 15% of all degree candidates graduated with first-class honours. The percentages of graduates achieving a first vary greatly by university and course studied.

Second-class honours

Upper second-class honours:

The upper division is commonly abbreviated to "2:1" (pronounced two-one). The 2:1 is a minimum requirement for entry to many postgraduate courses in the UK.

Lower second-class honours

TThis is the second division of second-class degrees and is abbreviated as "2:2" (pronounced two-two).

Third-class honours

Third class honours, referred to as a "Third," is the lowest honours classification in most modern universities.

Ordinary degree

An ordinary, general, or pass degree can be an exit degree without honours. Some honours courses permit students who fail the first year by a small margin (around 10%) to transfer to the Ordinary degree. Ordinary degrees are sometimes awarded to honours degree students who do not complete an honours degree course to the very end, but complete enough of it to earn a pass.

Sources: http://www.prospects.ac.uk, http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk, http://www.dayjob.com
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