Grades in UK Universities

Your performance will probably be evaluated by a combination of continuous assessment (based on coursework, projects, seminar participation, continuing exams, etc.), a final dissertation and final exams. At the end of your course, your degree will be graded to reflect your overall achievement. The possible grades are:

  • first-class honours (a first) (70% and above)
  • upper second-class honours (a 2.1/2.i) (60-70%)
  • lower second-class honours (a 2.2/2.ii) (50-60%)
  • third-class honours (a third) (40-50%)
  • ordinary

The system does allow for little deviation but students may be elevated up to the next degree class if their average mark is close and have submitted many pieces of work worthy of the higher class.On the other hand children may be demoted 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) and requirements other than the correct average are often needed to be awarded honours.

When a candidate is awarded a degree with honours, they can suffix (Hons) to their class of degree, such as BA (Hons) or BSc (Hons).

In some universities, candidates who successfully complete one or more years of degree-level study, but choose not to or fail to complete a full degree, may be awarded a lower qualification - a Certificate of Higher Education or Higher National Certificate for one year, or a Diploma of Higher Education or Higher National Diploma for two years.

First-Class Honours
In most universities, First-Class Honours is the highest honours which can be achieved, with about 10% of candidates achieving a First nationally.

A minority of universities award First-Class Honours with Distinction, informally known as a starred first.

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

Second-Class Honours
The bulk of university graduates fall into Second-Class Honours, which is sub-divided into Upper Second-Class Honours and Lower Second-Class Honours. These divisions are commonly abbreviated to 2:1 (pronounced two-one) and 2:2 (pronounced two-two) respectively. Employers usually only make the distinction between graduates with 2:1s and above or 2:2s and below.

Third-Class Honours
Third-Class Honours is the lowest honours classification in most modern universities (though until the 1970s, Oxford used to award Fourth-Class Honours degrees, although they did not divide Second-Class Honours and so still had four classes like everyone else).

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