Student Advice

Honours Degree

Ben Maples  · Nov 29th 2021

There is nothing better than graduating, but graduating with Honours is something very special.


An Honours degree is generally considered to be one of the highest achievements a student can attain and it takes a lot of hard work, effort and discipline.

An Honours degree can mean different things in different parts of the world and there are multiple ways of attaining it.

B A Honours degree

What is an Honours degree?

An Honours degree has many different interpretations, however, the most common description is that it is an undergraduate Bachelor’s degree that has a larger volume of study or is of a certain standard beyond that of a normal degree. An Honours degree is usually indicated by the use of “Hons” after the degree abbreviation, either in brackets or out.

An Honours degree is usually awarded after three years + of study at an accredited university. You cannot be awarded an Honours degree if your degree is less than three years, you must also achieve a minimum of 360 credits in the course module. It is also possible for integrated courses, like the Integrated Masters to qualify for Honours as it is a combination of a Bachelor degree and a Master’s degree.

Some universities do offer you an Honours degree, but not as part of their undergraduate programmes.

What is a Second Class Honours degree?

A Second Class Honours degree is also known as a 2:1. A Second Class Honours degree is the second-highest honour that you can receive from a university.

As with any other degree, if you achieve 360+ credits then you will receive honours, despite not getting first. To achieve a 2:1, you need to receive between 60% and 70%, however, if you fail to achieve a second class by a fairly small margin, then you may be granted an honours degree by the university anyway.

What is a Joint Honours degree?

A Joint Honours degree is a degree that amalgamates two or more subjects into one single qualification. It is possible to achieve an Honours in the subject as most Joint Honours degrees will likely have 360 credits more than achievable.

The degree is so named because of the capacity to study more than one subject, however, the fact that it has ‘Honours’ in the title is something of a misnomer. The ‘honours” section of the title must be achieved the same as a normal degree, so though the degree is referred to as a Joint Honours degree, it is, in reality, merely a Joint degree, with ‘honours’ being bestowed dependent on the performance of the student.

Honours degree vs Ordinary degree

Can I achieve an Honours degree at any university?

No, not all universities offer an Honours degree as part of their graduation process. Some do you offer an Honours degree, but not as part of their undergraduate programmes.

The University of Oxford does not offer an Honours degree with a standard undergraduate degree, however, they do consider students who receive a third class degree to have achieved honours status.

How do Honour degrees work in Scotland?

In Scotland, Honours degrees are achieved after four years of study, rather than the three required in England. Students can choose to do a general degree or an Honours degree, with the latter having more challenging subjects and a dissertation in the final year.

The credit system works exactly the same as it does in England as well, with students required to achieve 360+ credits in order to qualify. If students do not achieve an Honours, then they will be awarded the corresponding grade.

An Honours degree is usually awarded after three years + of study at an accredited university.

How do Honour degrees work in Ireland?

Ireland works within the National Framework of Qualifications, with their Honours degrees being recognised by the Bologna process as being a first-cycle degree. This means that they are awarded for three years plus of study and students must earn 240 ECTS Credits.

It is possible to earn an Honours degree for a Higher Diploma as well, usually as part of a conversion course with 60 ECTS Credits required.

Upper Second Class Honours degree

How do Honour degrees work in the US?

In the United States of America, the Honours degree (spelled Honors in America) requires students to have completed either a thesis (dissertation) or a project that is beyond the usual required level for a normal Bachelor’s degree.

You will have a minimum GPA level required for this, which can vary from university to university and be stable by state.

Not all universities offer an Honours degree as part of their graduation process.

How do Honour degrees work in the US and Canada?

There are two types of Honours degree in Canada, one that is offered after four years of undergraduate study and one that requires students to undertake an undergraduate Honours project.

In order to get into most postgraduate courses in Canada, you are required to have sat a four-year postgraduate degree anyway.

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