A bachelor's degree is usually an undergraduate academic degree awarded for a course that generally lasts three years in the United Kingdom (except Scotland, where four is customary) or four years in North America. Note that some postgraduate degrees are titled Bachelor of ..., e.g. the University of Oxford Bachelor of Civil Law. In some countries the degree is awarded either as a pass degree or as an honours degree which requires a high academic standard and, in Australia and New Zealand, an extra year of study.
There are two main types of bachelor's degree, the BA or AB (Bachelor of Arts) and the BSc (UK-usage) or BS (US-usage) (Bachelor of Science), awarded in subjects that fall into the general categories of arts and science respectively. There are no hard and fast rules about this; for example, the University of Cambridge has no BSc's, making even a physics graduate a Bachelor of Arts.
In the UK, medical students are traditionally awarded a double bachelor's degree after five years of study: MB BS or MB BCh. These are the bachelor of medicine and the bachelor of surgery degrees. Unlike other UK undergraduate degrees, these are not divided into honours classifications.
In the last hundred years, the range of bachelor's degrees has expanded beyond the traditional BA and BSc.
Some of these new degrees and their abbreviations include:
- BASc - Bachelor of Applied Science
- BBA - Bachelor of Business Administration
- BComm - Bachelor of Commerce
- BD - Bachelor of Divinity (also the name of a postgraduate degree in some universities)
- BDes - Bachelor of Design (Visual design dicipline)
- BEd - Bachelor of Education
- BEng - Bachelor of Engineering
- BMus - Bachelor of Music (also the name of a postgraduate degree in some universities)
- BSF - Bachelor of Science in Forestry
- LLB - Bachelor of Laws (also the name of a postgraduate degree in some universities)
Degree Classification in the UK
In the United Kingdom, bachelor's degrees can be awarded with or without Honours. Nowadays, nearly all candidates sit for honours; a Pass Degree (i.e. a bachelor's degree without honours) is usually awarded to a candidate who marginally fails the honours examination. A candidate who fails badly is usually allowed to retake the examination for a pass degree; most universities prohibit such a student from receiving honours.
In Oxford and Cambridge, honours classes properly apply to examinations, not to degrees. Thus, in Cambridge, where undergraduates are examined at the end of each Part, there is no established way of relating the honours classes for each Part of the Tripos to an overall honours class for the degree. In Oxford, the Final Honour School results are generally applied to the degree.
Honours are classified as follows:
- First Class Honours. In most universities, this is the highest honours which can be achieved, though some institutions award "starred firsts" to candidates of exceptional ability. A Double First correctly refers to first class honours in two separate subjects, e.g. Classics and Mathematics, and not to first class honours in the same subject in subsequent examinations, e.g. subsequent Parts of the Tripos in Cambridge.
- Second Class Honours. The bulk of university graduates fall into this class, which is sub-divided into
- Upper Second (2:1) and
- Lower Second (2:2). A 2:2 is usually the minimum standard required for postgraduate study and/or full membership of a professional body, though this depends greatly upon subject and institution: Nowadays, a candidate for a doctorate programme is usually required to have at least a 2:1, (or else a 2:2 plus a master's degree). A 2:2 is sometimes called a "Desmond" (cf. Archbishop Desmond Tutu).
- Third Class Honours. This is the lowest honours classification in most modern universities, though long before the subdivision of Second Class Honours the University of Oxford used to award Fourth Class Honours.