23 January 2017
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Honours degree

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These are postgraduate qualifications that requires additional study beyond a traditional bachelors degree. It is a degree classification that is different from ordinary or foundation ones and it goes a long way towards helping to distinguish a graduates achievements.

In the UK degrees may be awarded with honours or without, having said that currently virtually all students in this country only enrol on honour degree courses.

To be awarded a honours degree graduates must
  • Attain a comprehensive understanding of their subject matter.
  • Be able to analyse and understand current processes and practices in their chosen field.
  • Utilise sound judgment when making decisions.
  • Be able to clearly explain detailed academic theory.
  • Demonstrate a ability to achieve set academic goals and deadlines.
  • Write and communicate coherently.
  • Use teaching resources effectively.
A honours degree is a higher classification that a ordinary degree and signifies that a graduate has successfully completed a higher course of study.

At the end of a degree programme a students overall work and examination results are assessed and marked. A Board of Examiners will decide on how well they did in their studies and if their coursework is good enough to be awarded a pass mark.

Facts about honours degrees

  • On most honours course students have to undertake a minimum of 360 credits over a three year period. On the majority of courses (for instance medical related ones) they have to pass all 360 credits. Only once they have achieved this will they be awarded a Bsc (Hons) or BA(Hons).
  • Some honours degree courses require students to take a year of practical practice.
  • The abbreviation ‘hons’ is commonly used instead of the full ‘honours’.
  • They are considered more valuable than ordinary degrees, and subsequently can make people more employable.
  • Your must have been awarded a honours degree first before you can proceed to doing a postgraduate course. 
  • On some courses students are graded more on major projects or a thesis than on coursework or exam results.
  • In some fields a good honours degree can replace or be the equivalent of a masters degree.
  • Certain careers require applicants to have a honors accreditation and not just a ordinary degree. For this reason alone it is important that you research the entry requirements of your chosen industry.
  • In Scotland honors degrees are normally only given to students who enroll on four year courses. As opposed to England where it can be awarded to those on a three year course, although certain fields will insist on a additional year of study.

A honours degree will teach students how to

  • Research, investigate and think independently.
  • Explore their chosen subjects in greater depth.

Below is a rough breakdown of the main type of honours degree classification

First Class Honours
Known as a 1st or First. 
70% or above is required to achieve this.
A double first means obtaining a first class honours degree in two separate subjects.

Upper Second Class Honours
Known as a Two One or 2:1.
Between 60% to 70% required to achieve this.
This is the most common Honours degree classification awarded in the UK.

Lower Second Class Honours
Known as a Two Two or 2:2.
Between 50% to 60% required to achieve this.

Third Class Honours
Known as a Third or 3rd.
Between 40% to 50% required to achieve this.

The above percentages are not fixed and a certain amount of discretion is allowed by the authorities.

The benefits of attaining a honours degree
Research has shown that they are more likely to successfully attain higher paid jobs.
Their earning potential is greater.


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