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Honours degree

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Honours degree has various meanings in the context of different degrees and education systems. Most commonly it refers to a variant of the undergraduate bachelor's degree containing a larger volume of material or a higher standard of study, or both, rather than an "ordinary", "general" or "pass" bachelor's degree. Honours degrees are sometimes indicated by "Hons" after the degree abbreviation, with various punctuation according to local custom, e.g. "BA (Hons)", "B.A., Hons", etc. In Canada, honours degrees may be indicated with an "H" preceding the degree abbreviation, e.g. "HBA" for Honours Bachelor of Arts[1] or Honours Business Administration.[2]

Examples of honours degree include the honors bachelor's degree in the United States;[3] the bachelor's degree with honours in the United Kingdom,[4] Bangladesh,[5] Hong Kong,[6] and India;[7] the honours bachelor's degree in Ireland;[8] the bachelor with honours and bachelor honours degree in New Zealand; the bachelor with honours and honours bachelor's degree in Canada;[9] and the bachelor honours degree in Australia.[10] In South Africa the bachelor honours degree is a postgraduate degree that follows on from the completion of a bachelor's degree.[11] The undergraduate master of arts degree awarded by the ancient universities of Scotland in place of the bachelor of arts may be awarded as an honours or non-honours degree; these are at the same level as equivalent bachelor's degrees.[12][13] At master's level, the integrated master's degrees in British universities, which students enter at the same level as bachelor's degrees, are also honours degrees.[14]

Many universities and colleges offer both honours and non-honours bachelor's degrees. In most countries where honours degrees are granted, they imply a higher level of achievement than a non-honours degree. In some countries (e.g. Australia), an honours degree may also involve a longer period of study than a non-honours degree.[10] Students who complete all the requirements for a non-honours bachelor's degree but do not receive sufficient merit to be awarded an honours degree would normally be awarded a non-honours degree (sometimes known as a "pass", "general" or "ordinary" degree), although students who do not complete the requirements for an integrated master's honours degree may receive a bachelor's honours degree.[15] In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, almost all bachelor's degrees are awarded as honours degrees; in contrast, honours degrees are rarely awarded in the United States.

The current British undergraduate degree classification system, with its division into first, upper and lower second, and third class honours, was developed in 1918 to distinguish between students on the basis of their academic achievement.[16] The concept of an "honours" degree goes back much further than this, however, as there were examinations for honours in the original regulations of the University of London in 1839,[17] and Nevil Maskelyne being recorded as taking a bachelor's degree with honours at Cambridge in 1754.[18] Other countries influenced by this system include Australia, Brunei, Canada, New Zealand, Malta, Singapore, South Africa and Hong Kong.


The consecutive Australian with-honours degree is usually a one to two-year research program, after the completion of a bachelor's degree in the same field. It can also be started as a concurrent program in the fourth year of a four-year bachelor's degree. It is generally considered a postgraduate year because a bachelor's degree can be completed without it.[19] Entry to an honours degree generally requires proven abilities and a distinction (75% or greater average) in the relevant area or the final-year units, and even then is quite competitive.

In the regular (standalone) honours, the student will complete selected courses within a supervised program of research (field, laboratory, or secondary), and produce a long, high-quality research thesis. This is usually accompanied by a seminar or presentation of the findings to an academic board for marking. In the case of a quality thesis being produced, its findings may be published in a peer-reviewed academic journal or similar publication. Students receiving high marks in their honours program have the option of continuing to candidature of a doctoral program, such as Doctor of Philosophy, without having to complete a master's degree.[20] Honours can be awarded at up to five levels, depending on the awarding institution, and may be indicated in post-nominals in general as "(Hons)":

  • Honours, Class 1, with a University Medal, sometimes indicated in post-nominals as (Hons IM), (Hons 1M), or (H1M)
  • Honours, Class 1, sometimes indicated in post-nominals as (Hons I), (Hons 1), or (H1)
  • Honours, Class 2, Division 1, sometimes indicated in post-nominals as (Hons II), (Hons II(1)), (Hons 2(1)), or (H21)
  • Honours, Class 2, Division 2, sometimes indicated in post-nominals as (Hons II), (Hons II(2)), (Hons 2(2)), or (H22)
  • Honours, Class 3, sometimes indicated in post-nominals as (Hons III), (Hons 3), or (H3)

At the master's level, Monash University has a Master of Business with Honours program in which students can be awarded an honours classification upon completion.[21]


In Canada there are two type of honours degree. Some universities, especially in Ontario, award honours after four years of undergraduate study, instead of the three years of a 'general' bachelor's degree. The degree Examples include Queen's University[22] and York University.[23] In those universities, honours students may undertake an honours thesis.[24][25]

Some other universities, such as McGill University, University of Ottawa, University of Western Ontario, University of British Columbia, Concordia University and Dalhousie University, require students to undertake an honours project in order to graduate with honours (Latin cum honore, French spécialisé). In those universities, honours programmes also require a higher degree of specialization than non-honours 'major' degrees, including a supervised research project or thesis, and students are required to maintain a high academic standard.[26][27][28][29][30][31]

Thesis-based honours degrees prepare students for research-based postgraduate study, and may sometimes allow direct entry into doctoral programs.[26][32] A four-year bachelor's degree is required for entry to most postgraduate courses in Canada.[33][34]

England, Wales and Northern Ireland

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, bachelor's degrees are normally awarded "with honours" after three years of study.[35] The bachelor's degree with honours meets the requirements for a higher education qualification at level 6 of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in full,[36] and is a first-cycle, end-of-cycle award on the Qualifications Framework of the European Higher Education Area established by the Bologna process. Students can be awarded an "ordinary" degree if they achieve the required learning outcomes over a smaller volume of studies than is required for an honours degree, e.g. only passing 300 credits rather than the 360 usually required for an honours degree.[37][38] In addition to bachelor's degrees, four-year integrated master's degrees, which combine study at the bachelor's and master's levels, are also awarded with honours.[14]

The University of Oxford does not award honours with its standard BA degree, but considers students who gain a third class degree or better to have "achieved honours status".[39]

Hong Kong

Universities in Hong Kong have four degree classifications: first class, second class upper division (or second class division one/I), second class lower division (or second class division two/II), and third class. Bachelor degrees issued in Hong Kong are honour degrees and are abbreviated as B.Sc. (Hons), B.Eng. (Hons), B.B.A. (Hons), etc. The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University follow a GPA scale of 4.3, and The Chinese University of Hong Kong follows a GPA scale of 4.0.


A number of honours degrees are offered by the University of Malta, and the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST), usually indicating an extra year of study with an undergraduate dissertation or a specialisation within a three-year programme.[40]

New Zealand

The bachelor honours degree is a separate level on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework from the bachelor's degree without honours, as in Australia and Scotland.[41] It may either be a 4-year (480 credit) course or a single-year (120 credit) course following on from a bachelor's degree, and it prepares students for postgraduate study.[42] Bachelor's degrees issued are abbreviated as B.Com (Hons), B.Sc (Hons), etc. The award of honours recognises outstanding achievement, meritorious achievement or a pass; these may be termed first class honours, second class honours: first or second divisions, and third class honours.[43]


In Scotland, all undergraduate degrees with honours must be of four-year duration. Students can choose to do the honours degree or the general (or pass/ordinary) degree. The first two years of both types of degrees are the same; however, after that, students who pursue the honours route will complete more advanced subjects and a dissertation in their last year, while students who choose to do the general degree will complete their third year at a lower level of specialisation.[44]

Entry into the honours year in Scotland is generally not restricted and students are encouraged to take the honours year as the general/ordinary/pass degree does not provide the same level of depth and specialisation.[44]

Students enrolling in the honours program but failing to achieve the required academic merit for honours are awarded a pass/ordinary/general degree.


In Ireland, honours bachelor's degrees are at level 8 of the National Framework of Qualifications and are Bologna first cycle degrees. They normally follow a three or four year (180-240 ECTS credits) course. The higher diploma may be awarded at the same level following a single year of study (60 ECTS credits) and is normally taken following an honours degree as a conversion course. Ordinary (non-honours) bachelor's degrees are at level 7 of the framework and take three years (180 EFTS credits) to complete.[45]

South Africa

In South Africa, non-professional bachelor's degrees (BA, BSc, BCom) are three-year degrees (professional degrees such as law or medicine are longer). Students with a 3-year degree may register for honours degree, a one-year qualification required to register for a Master's.[46] Usually the honours degree specialises in one subject matter (e.g., mathematics, English). Intake into the honours degree is often highly selective. The bachelor's degree is at level 7 and the honours degree at level 8 on the National Qualifications Framework of the South African Qualifications Authority. The honours degree typically consists of taught courses and research components (at least 25% of the honours degree).[47]

United States

In the United States, an honours degree (or honors degree in US spelling) requires a thesis or project work beyond that needed for the normal bachelor's program.[3] Honours programs in the US are taken alongside the rest of the degree and often have a minimum GPA requirement for entry, which can vary between institutions.[48][49] Some institutions do not have a separate honours program, but instead refer to bachelor's degrees awarded with Latin honours, which may be based either on GPA or class position, as honours degrees.[50][51]

See also


  1. ^ "Undergraduate Programs: Bachelor of Arts degree". University of Waterloo. 27 June 2019. Retrieved 12 March 2021. What is the abbreviation for an honours Bachelor of Arts? The common abbreviations are BA or HBA.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ "Ivey HBA Program Brochure". Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario. 2020. Retrieved 12 March 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ a b "Structure of the U.S. Education System: Bachelor's Degrees". U.S. Department of Education. February 2008. Archived from the original on 23 August 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  4. ^ The Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies. Quality Assurance Agency. November 2014. p. 17. Archived from the original on 13 October 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  5. ^ "IUB at a glance | Independent University, Bangladesh". Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  6. ^ "Bachelor's Degree with Honours". Open University of Hong Kong. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  7. ^ "Bangalore University rolls out honours scheme for UG course". Times of India. 30 April 2014. Archived from the original on 12 February 2017. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  8. ^ "National Framework of Qualifications". Quality and Qualifications Ireland. Archived from the original on 28 March 2017. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  9. ^ "Bachelors Degree". York University. Archived from the original on 21 June 2016. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Bachelor Honours Degree: An Explanation" (PDF). Australian Qualifications Framework Council. November 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on 18 February 2018. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  11. ^ "The Higher Education Qualifications Framework" (PDF). South African Qualifications Authority. p. 25. Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 July 2016. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  12. ^ "Studying for a degree in Arts". Archived from the original on 19 February 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  13. ^ The Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies. Quality Assurance Agency. November 2014. p. 29. Archived from the original on 13 October 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  14. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions". Faculty Handbook. Durham University. What do I need to pass to get a degree?. Archived from the original on 16 September 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  15. ^ "Alternative Exit Awards". University of Kent. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  16. ^ "Tear up the class system". 14 October 2003. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  17. ^ Regulations of the University of London on the subject of the examinations for degrees in Arts. March 1839. p. 9.
  18. ^ Arthur Thomas Malkin (1836). "Maskelyne". The Gallery of Portraits with Memoirs. Vol. VI. Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. p. 20.
  19. ^ "Postgraduate Study". Archived from the original on 14 April 2015. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  20. ^ "Pathways to PhD for Honours, Final year and Masters Coursework students". RMIT University. Archived from the original on 30 December 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  21. ^ "Master of Business (Honours) for 2014". Monash. Archived from the original on 30 December 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  22. ^ "Degrees at a glance". Queen's University. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  23. ^ "Bachelors Degree: What is a Bachelor's degree? What is an Honours Bachelor's degree?". York University. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  24. ^ "Honours BA/BSc". Department of Psychology. York University. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  25. ^ "Honours Thesis – Questions and Answers" (PDF). Queen's University Department of Political Science.
  26. ^ a b "Program types: Major, Honours, Liberal". Mcgill University. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  27. ^ "Curriculum - COMPULSORY COURSES for students in the BSc with Honours". University of Ottawa. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  28. ^ "The degree structure". Western University. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  29. ^ "Degree Requirements". UBC.
  30. ^ "Undergraduate programs". Concordia University. Legend: Degree abbreviations and definitions. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  31. ^ "Undergraduate degree options". Dalhousie University. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  32. ^ "Degree Options in Canada". University Guide Online. Berlitz. Archived from the original on 26 November 2016. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  33. ^ ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS Dalhousie University
  34. ^ "Honours Program: Frequently Asked Questions". Mcgill University. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  35. ^ The Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies. Quality Assurance Agency. November 2014. p. 15. Archived from the original on 13 October 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  36. ^ The Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies. Quality Assurance Agency. November 2014. p. 25. Archived from the original on 13 October 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  37. ^ "Glossary". Quality Assurance Agency. Ordinary degree. Archived from the original on 12 August 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
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  39. ^ "Verifying qualifications". University of Oxford. Archived from the original on 17 August 2016. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
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  46. ^ "Honours and Master's in Sociology | Department of Sociology".
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  50. ^ "Requirements for Honors Degrees". Harvard University. Archived from the original on 14 October 2016. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  51. ^ "Honors Degree". State University of New York at Oneonta. Archived from the original on 24 June 2017. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
This page was last edited on 3 May 2022, at 17:52
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