Do you want to study in the UK? If you do, then it’s important for you to learn the different types of degrees or qualifications available for you in the UK. Hence, this guide will expose you to the different types of degrees in the UK.
When studying in the UK, your chosen course determines the award you’ll be graduating with. In some cases, courses are offered with different awards depending on your duration of the study and the number of credits you earned.
Since the UK has different degrees, a lot of international students are finding it difficult to find or choose the degree or qualification for them. If you’d like to learn about the different types of degrees in the UK to help you make a more informed decision, then you are in the right place.
In this guide, we’ll be covering all the different types of degrees in the UK in detail. So without further ado let’s dive right into it.
What’s the difference between postgraduate and undergraduate?
Even though postgraduate and undergraduate degrees are higher education qualifications in the UK, only undergraduate degrees are available to students or applicants who are done with high school. You only become eligible for a postgraduate degree once you have completed your undergraduate degree.
In the UK, undergraduate degrees are either level 4, 5, or 6 qualifications while postgraduate degrees are either level 7 or 8. However, in Scotland, awards are at level 9 or 10 for undergraduate degrees while postgraduate degrees (master’s and doctorates) are at levels 11 and 12.
Studying an undergraduate degree in the UK usually involves broadly different areas of a subject or course, while postgraduate degrees are majorly about specializing in a particular area of subject or course.
When compared to undergraduate degrees, postgraduate degrees are far more research-intensive and self-driven and have fewer lectures labs and tutorials in most cases.
Also, postgraduate courses usually take less time to complete. The only exception to that is if you are doing a PhD.
What’s an undergraduate degree?
An undergraduate degree is the next level of qualification you can acquire after completing high school. Undergraduate degrees are usually a student’s first degree, and they are usually studied or obtained at a university or any other higher education provider.
Students who have completed their first degree (undergraduate degree) either opt for a job or further their studies.
There are different types of undergraduate courses you can study in the UK. The different undergraduate courses you can study in the UK include:
A bachelor’s degree usually involves studying one or in some cases two, subjects in detail. It’s a level 6 qualification (a level 9 or 10 in Scotland) and it’s also one of the most common undergraduate degrees.
Typical classifications under the bachelor’s degree include:
- Bachelor of Arts (BA)
- Bachelor of Science (BSc)
- Bachelor of Education (BEd)
- Bachelor o Engineering (BEng)
- Bachelor of Law (LLB)
- Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MB ChB)
However, if you study in Scotland, you may be awarded an MA for your undergraduate degree. If your chosen course in Scotland awards an MA, don’t let it deter you as the qualification is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree.
When you choose a course in a single subject, it is known as a single honors degree. In some cases, you may be able to study a minor subject together with a major subject for a portion of your degree, also known as the major/minor honors degree. In the case of a major and minor subject, the degree title names the major subject first then the minor subject follows afterwards. For example, Psychology with Criminology or Law with International Relations.
When you study two or three major subjects as part of your bachelor’s degree, it’s termed a combined or joint honors degree. In this case, you’ll have to pick several modules per subject rather than doing every module for each subject. Each subject you take will hold equal weight in determining your final degree grade. Typical examples of a combined or joint honors degree include Accounting and Business or Law and Spanish.
A bachelor’s degree is among the different types of degrees in the UK.
How long does a bachelor’s degree take to complete in the UK?
It usually takes three years—i.e., if you are studying full-time. However, some courses may take up to four years; those courses usually include a placement year or a year abroad. Architecture and Medicine can take up to five years. Your degree might last longer than expected if you study part-time.
Integrated or intercalated degrees
Some courses may give you the liberty to take a break in the main undergraduate program to allow you to study a separate qualification—this is known as an intercalated degree. What this means is that you could end up graduating with two degrees. This may be the case if you are studying dentistry or medicine.
An integrated master’s course does the job of incorporating a master’s level qualification into an undergraduate programme. The courses are typically four years long, and the final year of study at the postgraduate level.
Integrated or intercalated degrees are among the different types of degrees in the UK.
Foundation year/foundation diploma
A foundation year or a foundation diploma is simply an introductory course that’s meant to bridge the gap between graduating from high school and starting a bachelor’s degree.
This one-year qualification is meant for aspirants or students who did not meet the entry requirements for a bachelor’s degree. The foundation year or foundation diploma is offered by many further education (FE) colleges or universities.
Foundation year or foundation diploma are among the different types of degrees in the UK.
How long does a foundation diploma take to complete in the UK?
A foundation year or foundation diploma only takes a year when studying full-time.
A Foundation degree (FdA) isn’t the same as a foundation diploma or a foundation year. It is a level 5 qualification that’s focused on practical-based learning.
A foundation degree is equivalent to the first two years of a bachelor’s degree and it typically involves a mix of workplace experience and academic study. After completing a foundation degree, students can go ahead to acquire a job or move into the final year of a bachelor’s degree.
A foundation degree is among the different types of degrees in the UK.
How long does a foundation degree take to complete in the UK?
If you are studying full-time, then it’ll take you two years to complete but if you are studying part-time, it could take you three to four years.
A Top-up degree is meant for students who want to complete the final year of a bachelor’s degree. Students who choose the top-up degree are often people who have completed a level 5 qualification, such as a foundation degree; who want to upgrade their qualifications to a full degree.
A Top-up degree is among the different types of degrees in the UK.
How long does a top-up degree take to complete in the UK?
For people who’ll be studying full-time, they’ll be able to complete it in a year. However, if you are studying part-time, then it can take as long as 18 months.
Higher National Certificate
A Higher National Certificate (HNC) is a one-year undergraduate equivalent of your first year in a bachelor’s degree awarding university.
The HNC is a level 4 practical-based qualification that’s taken by people who want to train for a specific career or enter the second year of a bachelor’s degree.
A Higher National Certificate is among the different types of degrees in the UK.
How long does a Higher National Certificate take to complete in the UK?
Higher National Certificates in the UK usually take a year to complete when studying full-time and take two years to complete with part-time study.
Higher National Diploma
A Higher National Diploma (HND) is much like the HNC, but unlike the HNC which takes a year to complete, it’s a two-year level 5 qualification equivalent to the first two years in a university (or of a bachelor’s degree).
The HND is a vocational qualification that’s designed for people who want to learn skills in a practical area or for those who want to enter the third year of a bachelor’s degree program after completion.
A Higher National Diploma is among the different types of degrees in the UK.
How long does a Higher National Diploma take to complete in the UK?
For full-time students, HND lasts two years and for part-time students, it could take anywhere between three and four years.
Certificate of Higher Education
The Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE) is a level 4 vocational qualification that’s ideal for people who cannot commit to a full three-year degree. This qualification is equivalent to both the first year of a bachelor’s degree and an HNC; it’s commonly used by students to achieve further study.
A Certificate of Higher Education is less practical-based and more academic-based. CertHE is among the different types of degrees in the UK.
How long does a Certificate of Higher Education take to complete in the UK?
If you are studying full-time, it’ll a year to complete while part-time takes two years.
Some universities offer the option of fast-tracking your studies which means that you could complete them in about six months.
However, since it’s not all the universities that permit fast tracking, you’ll have to check first before applying to the university.
Diploma of Higher Education
A Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) is a level 5 qualification that carries the same weight as two years of a bachelor’s degree or an HND. This degree typically focuses on academic study and allows students who have completed it to move into the final year of a bachelor’s degree.
A DipHE is among the different types of degrees in the UK.
How long does a Diploma of Higher Education take to complete in the UK?
If you are studying full-time, it takes two years to complete. If you opt for part-time study then it’ll take longer than two years.
Certificate of Continuing Education
A Certificate of Continuing Education (CertCE) qualification is meant for people who want a taste of higher education. This certificate is equivalent to 60 undergraduate degree credits, which is about half a year of study, and it can lead to a full undergraduate degree.
A CertCE degree is among the different types of degrees in the UK.
How long does a Certificate of Continuing Education take to complete in the UK?
It takes about eight months or a year to complete and it usually costs less than a full year of a bachelor’s degree.
What’s a postgraduate degree?
A postgraduate degree is the next level of study for people who have acquired an undergraduate degree. A postgraduate degree is can be a level 7 or level 8 qualification, where you’ll be able to specialize in a specific area of the subject you studied in your undergraduate degree.
Postgraduate degrees are either research or taught. Taught degrees often have to do with lectures, labs, and tutorials, much like an undergraduate degree. Academic tutors are the ones who usually lead this teaching. The types of taught postgraduate degrees include master’s degrees, postgraduate diplomas and certificates.
Research degrees on the other hand are for people who want independent study. For research degrees, you won’t be taught rather you’ll be allowed to carry out your own academic research based on the original research question you came up with. You’ll only be guided by a professor or academic tutor. Types of postgraduate research degrees include doctorates and some master’s courses.
At the postgraduate level, the master’s degree is the most studied degree. A master’s degree is a level 7 qualification that you can take after completing your undergraduate graduate (bachelor’s degree or its equivalent).
Some of the most common master’s degrees include:
- Master of Arts (MA)
- Master of Science (MSc)
- Master of Education (MEd)
- Master of Research (MRes)
- Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
- Master of Business Administration (MBA)
- Master’s Degree in Law (LLM)
Taught master’s degrees are the most common in UK universities but some universities also offer research master’s. A research master’s is more independent and self-driven; it’s focused or aimed at completing a research project.
Master’s degrees can also be integrated into a doctoral or undergraduate degree as part of a single programme of study. A typical example is the Master of Engineering (MEng).
Students who want to study for a doctorate (PhD), will have to first complete a master’s.
A master’s degree is among the different types of degrees in the UK.
How long does a master’s degree take to complete in the UK?
If you are studying full-time, a master’s degree will take a year to complete and part-time takes two years to complete.
Some undergraduate courses incorporate a master’s degree and these degrees usually take four years to complete if you are studying full-time.
Master of Business Administration
A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a level 7 postgraduate qualification that’s great for people who want to advance their business knowledge. You’ll be able to choose a dissertation or work-based project alongside several optional modules. A lot of courses under MBA offer students the opportunity to study abroad or acquire workplace experience.
An MBA is among the different types of degrees in the UK.
How long does a Master of Business Administration take to complete in the UK?
A lot of MBA courses usually take between 12 and 15 months for full-time students. Online or accelerated courses could take lesser time.
However, if you are studying an Executive MBA part-time, then it can take up to two years. This is a more preferable option for students who wish to work while studying.
Master’s Degree in Law
A Master’s Degree in Law (LLM) is a level 7 postgraduate qualification for law students who want to study a particular area of law such as environmental law or criminal litigation. The courses offered here are usually taught rather than research-based courses which means that you’ll have to select the modules that interest you and have a research project or dissertation to complete.
An LLM is among the different types of degrees in the UK.
How long does a Master’s Degree take to complete in the UK?
For full-time students, it’ll a year to complete, although some courses might be slightly longer. However, if you are taking an online course or doing it part-time, it could take up to two years.
A doctorate is a level 8 (top postgraduate-level) qualification that consists of both academic learning and research but is primarily research-focused.
To acquire a doctorate, you might spend the entire course working on an independent thesis that’s usually based on an original research proposal.
There are two basic types of doctorate degrees. The first type is the academic doctorate degree that focuses on conducting original research in order to expand knowledge within a particular field or subject area. These include DPhil (Doctor of Philosophy) and PhD.
Secondly, there are professional doctorate degrees that involve broadening knowledge and research but has more practical learning. These include PhD(Eng)/EngD (Doctor of Engineering), DClinPsy (Doctor of Clinical Psychology), and MD (Doctor of Medicine).
A doctorate degree is among the different types of degrees in the UK.
How long does a doctorate degree take to complete in the UK?
Students who study full-time can expect to complete their PhD within three to four years. While those who study part-time can complete their PhD within six to seven years.
Postgraduate Certificate/Postgraduate Diploma
A Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) is a level 7 qualification that’s meant for people who want to boost their future career prospects without having to commit to a master’s degree. The courses or subjects under this degree are studied at a master’s level but they don’t require research or dissertation project and are shorter.
A Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) is similar to the PGCert but it’s twice as long. This is a level 7 qualification that’s worth 120 credits (PGCert is worth 60 credits) towards a master’s. To graduate with a Master’s you’ll need 180 credits, this makes the PGDip an ideal stepping stone for people who want to complete their masters or improve their future career prospects.
Both PGCert and PGDip are often offered within a master’s degree. A PGCert is often seen as being equivalent to one-third of a master’s degree while a PGDip is equivalent to two-thirds of a master’s degree. This is the reason why some master’s degree programmes will allow you to upgrade your PGDip to a master’s by completing a research or dissertation project.
PGCert and PGDip are among the different types of degrees in the UK.
How long does a PGCert/PGDip take to complete in the UK?
PGCerts typically takes 1 term to complete, which is usually around 15 weeks while PGDips takes twice the time required to complete PGCerts (2 terms), which is around 30 weeks.
Postgraduate Certificate in Education/Postgraduate Diploma in Education
A Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) is a level 7 qualification for students in Northern Ireland, Wales, and England who are interested in teaching. A PGCE course allows you to acquire the Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), which you can use to teach all 9ver the world. The certificate offers a mix of academic learning and practical experience via placements.
A Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) on the other hand is the equivalent teaching qualification for students who are studying in Scotland.
How long does a PGDE/PGCE take to complete in the UK?
The courses usually take a year to complete if you are studying full-time and it could take up to two years if you study part-time.
PGCE and PGDE are among the different types of degrees in the UK.
A conversion course is meant for students who want to change careers. Conversion courses are postgraduate qualifications that allow you to study a subject that you didn’t study in your undergraduate degree.
Most conversion courses are taught degrees and they are usually condensed versions of an undergraduate degree. Students who want to further their studies at the master’s level can also take conversion courses.
Conversion courses are among the different types of degrees in the UK.
How long does a conversion course take to complete in the UK?
Most of the courses usually take a year to complete if studied full-time. A part-time conversion course can take longer while an online conversion course can take lesser time than a full-time study.
Other degree courses and qualifications
National Vocational Qualification
A National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) is a practical-based qualification that prepares students for the workplace. The NVQ focuses on the practical skills needed for those who are currently in full-time or part-time work and you must be already employed before you can enrol.
NVQs can be awarded up to 6 levels. A level 4 or 5 NVQs is equivalent to one-third and two-thirds of a bachelor’s degree while a level 6 is equivalent to a full bachelor’s degree.
The time required to complete NVQs varies since you can complete the modules when you are ready. You are assessed by being observed while at work or via portfolio work.
Access to Higher Education Diploma
The Access to Higher Education Diploma is a level 3 qualification that’s taught at further education (FE) colleges, for students aged 19 or above who left school without any traditional qualifications but want to enrol in a university. This level 3 qualification prepares students for degree-level study.
Universities see this qualification as being equivalent to International Baccalaureate and Advanced Highers, A Levels, and BTECs.
A degree apprenticeship allows you to study towards a master’s or bachelor’s degree while working. They usually take between three to six years to complete and are often offered by universities that have partnered with professional bodies and companies.
Unlike other degree types where you’ll have to fund it yourself, with a degree apprenticeship, you won’t have to do that as it’ll be funded by both your employer and the government.
An accelerated degree lets you complete your bachelor’s degree in a shorter amount of time. With an accelerated degree, you can complete a three-year bachelor’s degree program in two or a four-year bachelor’s degree program in three.
An accelerated degree isn’t different from a bachelor’s degree as you’ll be taught the same content but the difference is you’ll have shorter or fewer holidays.
The fees for an accelerated degree are more expensive than a bachelor’s degree but if you consider the fact that’ll you’ll save a year of accommodation and day-to-day living then it totally becomes worth it.
Degree with placement year
A degree with placement year, also commonly referred to as ‘sandwich year’ is a four-year degree program that lets the student spend their third year working in placement or studying abroad. This offers a great opportunity for students to gain valuable learning experience in a new country or work in the sector you’d love to be employed in.
The fees per year as well as the qualifications needed to gain admission into a degree with placement year are the same as its bachelor’s equivalent.
There you have it! There goes our comprehensive list of the different types of degrees in the UK.