Undergraduate / First Degrees

The first-degree structure in all British Universities is now based on the 'Honours' degree. Some degree programmes will be 'single honours', i.e. specialising in a particular area, such as Law. Other programmes might be 'combined' or 'joint' honours, i.e. bringing together two or more subjects such as philosophy and politics.

Various names are given to the first degrees awarded by British Universities. At most Universities, the first degree in Arts is called BA (Bachelor of Arts) and the first degree in Science a BSc (Bachelor of Science). Other titles are also used, for example BEng (Bachelor of Engineering), BEd (Bachelor of Education) and LLB (Bachelor of Laws).

The first award in Medicine is the joint degrees of MB, ChB (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery), the designated letters of which vary from University to University. These degrees are all equal, there is no difference in quality or level between them, a BSc is not 'better' than a BA.

Length of Degree Courses

The standard honors degree in English and Welsh Universities is only three years, compared with four in the USA and Australia. However, students taking a foreign language as part of their first degree will usually take four years. In Scotland the first degree takes four years, but t hat is because it is a Masters Degree.

This is because a year abroad is part of their studies. So a student studying Arabic at a British University will typically spend the first two years at University, the third in an Arabic-speaking country, and the fourth and final year back at their home University.

In some countries, including Iraq, the standard of education at high school is not as advanced as in the UK. On this basis students leaving high school will not be able to straight into a British University, and will normally have to take a 'foundation' year, i.e. an extra year of study, before starting an undergraduate degree. Universities usually have a general minimum requirement for admission to a degree course and special, higher requirements may apply for particular courses.

Structure of Degree Courses

The Academic year at British Universitiies usually lasts for 30 weeks, spread over either two semesters or three terms. Course structures also vary considerably, between and within Universities. The commonest pattern for degree examinations is that they come in two sections: Part 1 coming after the first or second year of the course, and Part 2 ('Finals') at the end of the course.