A degree may be awarded with or without honours, with the class of an honours degree based on the average mark of the assessed work a candidate has completed. Below is a list of the possible classifications with common abbreviations. Honours degrees are in bold:
The system does allow for a small amount of discretion and candidates may be elevated to the next degree class if their average mark is close or the median of their weighted marks achieves the higher class, and they have submitted many pieces of work worthy of the higher class. However, they may be demoted a class if they fail to pass all parts of the course even if they have a high average.
There are also variations between universities (especially in Scotland, where honours are usually reserved only for courses lasting four years or more, with a three-year course leading to the awarding of an Ordinary degree) and requirements other than the correct average are often needed to be awarded honours. (In Scotland it is normal to start University a year younger than in the rest of the United Kingdom as the Scottish Highers exams are taken at age seventeen, not eighteen, so four-year courses end at the same chronological age as a rest-of-UK three-year course, assuming no 'gap years'.)
When a candidate is awarded a degree with honours, '(Hons)' may be suffixed to their type of degree, such as BA (Hons) or BSc (Hons).
At Oxford and Cambridge, honours classes apply to examinations, not to degrees. Thus, in Cambridge, where undergraduates are examined at the end of each Part (one- or two-year section) of the Tripos, a student may receive different classifications for different Parts. The degree itself does not formally have a class. Most Cambridge graduates use the class of the final Part as the class of the degree, but this is an informal usage. At Oxford, the Final Honour School results are generally applied to the degree.
In some universities, candidates who successfully complete one or more years of degree-level study, but do not complete the full degree course, may be awarded a lower qualification: a Certificate of Higher Education or Higher National Certificate for one year of study, or a Diploma of Higher Education or Higher National Diploma for two years.
The Graduateship (post-nominal GCGI) and Associateship (post-nominal ACGI) awarded by the City & Guilds of London Institute are mapped to a British Honours degree.
The Engineering Council Graduate Diploma set at the same level as the final year of a British BEng.
A minority of universities award First-Class Honours with Distinction, informally known as a "Starred First" (Cambridge) or a "Congratulatory First" (Oxford). These are seldom awarded.
A "Double First" can refer to First-Class Honours in two separate subjects, e.g., Classics and Mathematics, or alternatively to First-Class Honours in the same subject in subsequent examinations, such as subsequent Parts of the Tripos at the University of Cambridge. At Oxford, this term normally refers to a First in both Honour Moderations and the Final Honour School.
Many reputed universities such as Oxford and Cambridge have a university-wide minimum requirement of a 2:1 for entry into their postgraduate degrees.
Such disparity between 2:1 and 2:2 degrees has become a matter of controversy recently as the difference between achieving the two grades can often be slight.
About 45% of all graduates achieve a 2:1.
About 30% of graduates in the UK gained a second-class degree.
The bachelor of medicine awarded in the UK is equivalent to the doctor of medicine in the US, Canada, etc. However a doctorate of medicine degree (if awarded in the UK) is a separate academic degree equivalent to a PhD which a medic can undertake in postgraduate study. Some clinicians hold both PhD & MD degrees.
Unlike most undergraduate degrees they are not awarded first, second or third class degrees. Individual exams are marked as pass, fail or merit (which is the equivalent of a first in most other degrees). Distinctions can be awarded for certain parts of the course to the best students (who will usually have several merits already). Honours are awarded at some institutions for exceptional performance throughout the course. Very few are awarded.
A Third is also known as a 'Richard' after the monarch Richard III. However, this is used primarily as a derogatory term, due to the more common meaning of that term, a fecal reference in rhyming slang to the word turd. A third is also referred to as a 'Vorderman' after the British television celebrity Carol Vorderman who received a Third at Cambridge.