British degree abbreviations: Wikis


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Degree abbreviations are used as an alternative way to specify an academic degree instead of spelling out the title in full, such as in reference books like Who's Who and on business cards. Many degrees have more than one abbreviation.



Note that usage in some Scottish universities, particularly the ancient universities, differs from that in England and Wales in that MAs are given out in place of BAs as first degrees, where the course of study is four years rather than the three years typical in England.

The usage in the two ancient English universities of Oxford and Cambridge also differs slightly from that in other UK universities - the MA degree is not a substantive qualification, but reflects the ancient practice of these universities of raising BAs to MAs (and thus full membership of the University) a few years after graduating. Conversely, some bachelor's degrees in the higher faculties (i.e., those other than arts) at those universities are postgraduate qualifications (e.g., the BCL and BMus at Oxford). Many have been changed to the corresponding master's degree (e.g., BSc is now MSc), but only within the last generation. The BD remains a higher degree at some older universities (e.g., Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews and Durham) but is an undergraduate degree at most (e.g., London, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow). Oxford and Cambridge grant BAs after three years to students on undergraduate courses lasting longer than this (the undergraduate masters degrees and the MB, ChB in medicine), though not in Modern Languages, which is typically four years in length at any university, or in the Oxford degree of Literae Humaniores, also four years long (and at Oxford Modern Languages combined with Literae Humaniores, known technically in this case as Classics, is five years).

Undergraduate degrees may be awarded "with Honours" or may be "Ordinary" or "Pass" degrees. The meaning of non-Honours degrees changed in the course of the twentieth century, and varies somewhat between England and Wales on the one hand and Scotland and Northern Ireland on the other, and also between institutions. Honours degrees are usually awarded with first, upper-second, lower-second or third class honours.

Usage of titles of masters degrees (in particular the undergraduate masters degrees) is in continuing flux, not least because of discussions of harmonisation of qualifications within the European Union as part of the Bologna process.

There is an international (but not universal) custom that certain degrees will be designated '.... of Philosophy'. Examples are MPhil (Master of Philosophy) and PhD or DPhil (Doctor of Philosophy). Most recipients of such degrees are not 'philosophers'; they can be students of any subject. The origins lie in the ancient practice of regarding all areas of study as elements of 'philosophy'. This is confusing to people looking at university degrees from the 'outside'.

Thus holders of an MPhil degree may have earned it in any discipline.

Most universities, worldwide, award doctorates by one of three routes. 'Normal' doctorates are awarded after research and the submission of a thesis. British universities award 'normal' doctorates in the form of PhD or DPhil in all subjects. Higher doctorates are awarded on the basis of a substantial body of published academic work. British universities award these in the form of DLitt (literature), LLD (law), DMus (music), DSc (science), DEng (engineering), DD (theology) etc. Honorary doctorates are awarded to persons of distinction (such as statesmen or philanthropists) or academics that have made a notable contribution to their discipline, through research and publication, and the higher doctorate designations are used. However, some newer universities (e.g. Essex, Stirling, and the Open University) do not do this and instead award DUniv (doctor of the university) irrespective of the field in which the honorary graduate is being recognised.

Bachelor's degrees

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, almost all bachelor's degrees are awarded as honours degrees, sometimes indicated by '(Hons)' after the degree abbreviation without a space, for example 'BA(Hons)'.

At the Ancient universities of Scotland (St Andrews, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen) a BSc(Hons) indicates a four year course, being the equivalent of the Scottish MA for science degrees. A Scottish BSc without honours indicates a three year course with less specialisation (a General Degree).

Some of the following are postgraduate degrees in a few universities, but generally bachelors are undergraduate degrees.

See also Bachelor's degree.

Master's degrees

See also Master's degree.



These, like most bachelor's degrees, are honours degrees, indicated by putting '(Hons)' after the degree abbreviation. The majority of undergraduate master's degrees are within science and engineering subjects. The undergraduate MAs of the ancient universities of Scotland are also honours degrees and may also add '(Hons)'. MEng used to be offered by some universities as a postgraduate degree, but is now an undergraduate degree.


Postgraduate degrees are not honours degrees, and do not add '(Hons)' to indicate this. MA (Hons) is only used for the undergraduate degree of the ancient Scottish universities: as there are no examinations for the MAs in Oxford and Cambridge there are consequently no honours to be awarded. The Oxbridge MA may be differentiated by putting the name of the institution after the degree, thus 'MA (Oxon)' or 'MA (Cantab)'. The MPhil is normally reserved for longer (often two year) research-based masters degrees (as at Oxford), although at Cambridge the MPhil is usually either a nine-month or twelve-month, either taught or research, degree. The MUniv is only ever an honorary degree. Postgraduate masters degrees are considered higher status than undergraduate masters. Postgraduate masters degrees are generally classified as pass, pass with merit and pass with distinction, although not all universities incorporate merit. The percentage bandings for these award levels are usually 50%-59% (pass), 60%-69% (merit) and 70%+ (distinction), although a merit banding of only 65%-69% is used in some universities whilst a single pass banding of 50%-69% is usually used at universities that do not award a merit.

Doctor's degrees

Due to the flexibility of Latin word order, there are two schools in the abbreviation of doctor's degrees. At Cambridge, D follows the faculty (e.g. PhD, LittD.), while at Oxford the abbreviation D precedes the faculty (e.g. DPhil, DLitt). Most universities in the UK followed Oxford for the higher doctorates but followed international precedent in using PhD for Doctor of Philosophy. Doctor of Medicine (MD or DM) is sometimes a professional doctorate (e.g. in the US and others) and sometimes a research doctorate (e.g. in the UK and some of the Commonwealth). The degree of Doctor of Medicine is considered by some as a higher doctorate. However, the MD/DM research degree often requires a shorter period of study than, for example, a PhD and is considered by some universities to be more on par with an MPhil than a PhD (at least in the UK, e.g. the University of Manchester). Doctor of Philosophy is normally reserved for doctorates awarded on the basis of original research, other junior doctorates have substantial taught elements. Higher doctorates are normally awarded as honorary degrees (honoris causa), but can also be awarded on the basis of published work. DUniv is only ever an honorary degree. The sorting between junior doctorates and higher doctorates below is dependent on the granting institution. Several institutions consider some of the junior doctorates listed below as higher doctorates.

See also Doctorate.

Junior Doctorates

Higher Doctorates

The order of seniority for Higher doctorates varies from institution to institution and not all institutions award the same degrees. The following order generally pertains, especially in older universities.

See also


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