A bachelor of arts degree program generally lasts three years in nearly all of the European Union countries as well as in Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, India, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Quebec, Singapore, South Africa, and Switzerland, whereas it usually lasts four years in Bangladesh, Canada (outside Quebec), Ireland, Pakistan, Scotland, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation and the United States.
The concept of "years," however, is based on credit hours. The "four years" expected to complete a B.A. degree in the United States is an estimate of time it should take to complete the amount of credit hours deemed necessary for matriculation by the institution accredited by the US Department of Education. Thus, a B.A. could be achieved in lesser time should the student achieve said credit hours in the shorter period of time. While difficult and rare, it is not impossible.
Diplomas generally give the name of the institution, signatures of officials of the institution (generally the President or Rector of the University, as well as the Secretary or Dean of the component college), the type of degree conferred, the conferring authority, and the location at which the degree is conferred. Degree diplomas generally are printed on high quality paper or parchment, use ornate lettering and often include archaic terminology or even language (e.g. Latin).
The Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS or BSc) are similar in some countries in that they are the most common undergraduate degrees. In the United States and Canada (except Quebec), both degrees incorporate a general education component (matriculants take courses in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and mathematics). They typically require students to declare an academic major, take a certain number of elective courses, and sometimes have basic skills components (writing or computer proficiency exams), however, in countries not requiring a general education component—such as Australia and the European Union—the subjects studied likely are different in each degree. In many cases, an academic minor or second major is also obtained. At some institutions, a small number of academic programs are considered to be comprehensive and do not require a minor area of study.
The BSc degree typically specifies more courses in the major (or cognate fields) than does the BA degree. The BA focuses on creating a well-rounded graduate through formal study of the arts, letters, and humanities. The BSc degree tends to be awarded more often in the natural sciences (and to some extent, the social sciences) than in the humanities. In the United States, the BSc is often awarded in pre-professional academic majors more than purely academic ones. Beyond these differences, the variation between the BA degree and the BSc degree depends on the policies of the colleges and universities. This can often manifest in unusual ways; for example, physics and biology majors are often given BA degrees, while business majors are sometimes given BSc degrees. For example, the University of California, Berkeley awards only the BA degree in astronomy, physics, statistics, and mathematics, while it offers only the BS degree in business for undergraduates.
A Bachelor of Arts in the UK or Ireland receives the designation BA for an ordinary/pass degree and BA (Hons) for an honours degree.
Unlike other countries, Australian (and New Zealand) students do not receive an overall grade for their Bachelor of Arts, with varying levels of 'honours'. Instead, students have the option, at the conclusion of their third year of study, and provided they possess a grade average of 75% or higher across their Major area, to undertake an Honours (or fourth) year. The Honours year is generally composed of a coursework component (including seminars or tutorials) and an original researched thesis or dissertation of 15,000-20,000 words.
It is the combined grades of these components which determine whether the student graduates with 'First', 'Second' or 'Third' Class Honours. Some universities, following the classifications of the British university system, also divide Second Class Honours between Division I and Division II. Additionally, those students who achieve an outstanding First Class Honours grade (usually requiring a mark of more than 90%) may be concomitantly awarded the University Medal, whilst those who do not meet the standards of the Honours year are awarded the normal Bachelor of Arts instead.
On graduation, students are permitted to append the abbreviation 'BA' to their name; those who have successfully completed the Honours year may style themselves 'BA (Hons)'.