25. Programme Structure and Design (undergraduate)

25.1   Undergraduate programmes may be a single unitary degree or a joint degree devoting approximately equal time to two subjects or a major/minor combination where the minor subject accounts for at least a quarter of the programme.

25.2   Where a programme crosses faculty or school boundaries, one of the contributing schools or faculties must own the programme and apply the relevant regulations as set out in this document. For programmes that span faculties the programme committee must decide the ‘owning’ school or faculty, guided by the balance of the programme and the home school / faculty of the academic lead.

25.3   The degrees of BA, BSc, BEng, LLB, may be awarded with honours or as ordinary degrees. Names of successful candidates for honours shall be arranged as follows: first class honours; second class honours in two divisions and third-class honours. The names of successful candidates for the ordinary degrees shall be listed separately.

25.4   The degrees of MSci, MArts, MLibArts and MEng may be awarded with honours, as follows: first class honours and second-class honours in two divisions.

25.5   The normal requirement for each full-time year of undergraduate study is not less than 120 credit points and not more than 130.

Preliminary Year programmes (see glossary for definition)

Programme structure

25.6      The normal period of study for programmes that include a preliminary year will be four years for Bachelors and five years for Integrated Masters. The maximum period of study for programmes that contain a preliminary year is six years for a Bachelors degree and seven years for an Integrated Masters degree. Within this, the normal period of study for the preliminary year is one year and the maximum is two years on a full-time basis.

25.7      The preliminary year will normally consist of units taught at the equivalent of level 3 and exceptionally level 4 units where there is a good academic reason to do so.

25.8      No unit should be identical to those taught in the undergraduate programmes onto which successful students would progress.

25.9      Schools must ensure that the preliminary year is sufficiently rigorous to prepare students for successful study at degree level.

25.10   The standard of units that are taught at the equivalent of level 3 should be broadly equivalent to A- level standard where that is applicable. Schools may adapt the University Marking Criteria for these units.

25.11   A mark of at least 40 out of 100 must be achieved for a student to pass a unit.

25.12   Whilst credit points may be associated with a unit to indicate the notional amount of input required by a student, credit is not awarded for units taught at the equivalent of level 3.


25.13   The progression criteria for the preliminary year will be the same as for all modular programmes, unless stated below.

25.14   Students who successfully pass all the units in the preliminary year will have been deemed to have completed the year and will progress onto the first year of the degree programme.

25.15   Where compensated progression is undesirable, all units should be designated as ‘must pass’.

25.16   Students will be permitted to undertake assessment as a second attempt.

25.17   Supplementary years (other than for exceptional circumstances) shall not be permitted.

25.18   Schools may allow transfer to other programmes at the end of the preliminary year. Higher requirements for such a transfer than just successfully completing the year may be specified for such a transfer.


25.19   On completion of the programme, the student should be awarded the title of the named degree programme (i.e. without reference to the preliminary year).

25.20   A student who has completed the preliminary year by passing all the units but who does not proceed onto a University of Bristol programme will receive a certificate. The certificate will be a record of achievement rather than a distinct award, and so shall not indicate an overall pass or fail.

Integrated Masters degree

25.21   Integrated Masters degrees must state in their programme specifications whether they are of the advanced study type (type II as defined by the QAA), professional type (type III) and/or has a formal period of study abroad / in industry.

25.22   Integrated Masters degrees without a period of study abroad or in industry will have an exit award of a Bachelors Honours degree at the end of the third year of study, in accordance with the University’s credit framework.  Where the exit award for the integrated masters has the same title as a free-standing degree also awarded by the University, students leaving with the exit award must have completed the same or directly equivalent programme learning outcomes as graduates from the free-standing programme.

25.23   If independent study (e.g. project or dissertation) is a faculty requirement for the award of a degree, schools should ensure that any students who graduate with an exit award of a Bachelors Honours degree have completed the designated independent study, constituting a unit of at least 20 credits units at level 6.

25.24   Where exit awards are not professionally accredited, this must be set out in the programme specification and reiterated to students prior to the start of the second year of study.

Student choice

25.25   Full time students on undergraduate degree programmes will normally have the opportunity to broaden their education by taking units outside of their subject discipline (i.e. ‘open units’) worth at least 20 credit points across the programme, except where this is not practicable, for example, due to professional accreditation reasons.

25.26   Faculties and schools will determine the point during a student's career at which open units may be taken.

25.27   Students do not have a right to take any particular unit as an open unit and should not undertake an open unit in which they are already proficient. The availability of any particular unit is subject to practical constraints such as space in teaching rooms or laboratories and timetabling. Subject to these constraints, students may also seek to take a unit (or units), which has not been flagged as being an ‘open unit’.

25.28   Students are not required to take open units. If they wish, and subject to the programme structure and practical constraints described in 25.27, they may take the 20 credit points set aside for open units in their honours subject(s).