British degree abbreviations

From Academic Kids

Abbreviations are normally used to specify a degree, rather than spelling out the name in full. Many degrees have more than one abbreviations. This list is a 'work in progress' - please add to it.

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 masters degree (e.g. BSc is now MSc), but only within the last generation. The BD remains a higher degree at a some older universities (e.g. Oxford, Cambridge 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, BCh in medicine).

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. But in most places to be awarded an Ordinary or Pass degree is nowadays a euphemism for failure. However, in the Open University and some of the newer universities with a strong commitment to broadening access to higher education, the Pass degree remains a valuable qualification though of a lower standard (or indicating a shorter period of study) than an Honours degree. 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.


Bachelor's degrees

These are normally awarded as honours degrees, sometimes indicated by '(Hons)' after the degree abbreviation without a space, for example 'BA(Hons)'.

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 bachelors 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 some Scottish universities 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. The MUniv is only ever an honorary degree.

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. The degree of Doctor of Medicine is normally considered a higher doctorate, although in some universities it is a professional doctorate (similar to the DEd). 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. Doctor of Medicine (MD or DM) is sometimes a higher doctorate (e.g. in the UK and some of the Commonwealth)) and sometimes a professional doctorate (e.g. in the US and others). 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 Doctors

Higher Doctors

See also


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