4. Academic awards and programme structures

The approved awards and qualifications of the University are governed by the regulations in this section.

Additionally, the following programmes are governed by specific regulations: MBChB, BDS, BVSc, Gateway to Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Science, MSc in Veterinary Sciences and Postgraduate Diploma in Veterinary Clinical Practice, BSc in Veterinary Nursing and Bioveterinary Sciences and Veterinary Nursing and Companion Animal Behaviour, BSc in Dental Hygiene and Therapy, the International Foundation Programme (in the Centre for Academic Language and Development and in Dentistry), Foundation programmes, Postgraduate Certificate in Education, Graduate Diploma, MA in Law, MSc in Social Work, postgraduate programmes in Clinical Neuropsychology. the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice and the Pre-Sessional English for Academic Purposes Courses. 

The development of taught programmes across the University are underpinned by the expectations of the Quality Assurance Agency’s (QAA) UK Quality Code.

4.1    Each degree programme is the responsibility of the relevant faculty, subject to approval by Senate. Faculty Boards shall determine the programmes to be offered for each degree, diploma or certificate within the faculty and the units to be taken within each programme.

4.2    Every degree programme must be justified on academic grounds and the level of demand for them must be sufficient to merit the use of the resources required for delivery.

4.3    Faculties must adhere to the established procedures for the approval of named degree programmes.

4.4    Control over entry to any programme or unit rests with faculties (programmes) and schools (units). This includes the evaluation and acceptance of students transferring from other institutions or internally within the University.

4.5    All new and existing undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes must be fully modular in structure, with the exception of the MB,ChB, BDS and BVSc programmes and Gateway variants.

4.6    Faculties and schools must specify the constituent units for all existing and any new programmes in the programme specification, as well as the programme aims, intended learning outcomes, any opportunities for conditional progression and the status of those units within its structure, including whether they are ‘must-pass’. The programme specification is also the definitive record for any programme-level rules on the award of credit, student progression and qualifying for the intended or exit award.

4.7    Subject to the approval by the Faculty on i-iii, schools shall determine: (i) the content and duration of each unit, (ii) the criteria for its satisfactory completion; (iii) the value in terms of credit points and level to be assigned to each unit; and (iv) the pre-requisites and co-requisites associated with each unit.

4.8    Faculties and schools whose programmes or units are either validated by professional bodies or which are required to adhere to curricular content specified by professional bodies will establish with those organisations what constitutes an acceptable curricular structure.

4.9    Where distance learning is required or offered for part of, or whole of, a programme, faculties and schools must consider and fulfil the principles for the design and delivery of programmes by distance learning.

4.10 On the recommendation of the appropriate faculty board of examiners, subject to the overriding authority of Senate and the Board of Trustees, the University will grant an academic award to any person who has fulfilled all the conditions prescribed by statutes, ordinances and regulations.

4.11 On the recommendation of Senate, the Board of Trustees may award a degree of the University as an honorary degree, save that no degree may be awarded otherwise than by examination if it deems the holder to be fit to practice in a professional capacity.

4.12 On the recommendation of Senate, the Board of Trustees may withdraw an academic award, distinction or prize of the University if it is subsequently discovered that the award, distinction or prize was improperly obtained.

4.13 On the recommendation of Senate, the Board of Trustees may accept a request from any person to resign an academic award, distinction or prize of the University. Restoration On the recommendation of Senate, the Board of Trustees may restore an academic award, distinction or prize of the University to a person who has been deprived of it or has voluntarily resigned it.

Unit sizes and structure of the teaching year

4.14   The University's standard unit sizes are 10, 20, 30, 40 and 60 credit points. A single 120 credit point undergraduate unit which encompasses a full academic year where the student is studying abroad or in industry is also permitted.

4.15   In postgraduate taught programmes, units of more than 60 credit points are permitted to accommodate projects or dissertations.

4.16   Faculties and schools must ensure that programmes and units conform to the structure of the academic year as laid out by Senate. 

Units should not span more than one academic year. A unit may only be scheduled to run outside of the agreed structure where there are good pedagogic reasons so to do when approved by the University Education Committee

Levels of study - programmes

4.17   The University of Bristol, in accordance with Ordinance 19 and the national Qualifications Framework, awards the following taught academic qualifications:

  • Masters Degree – at level 7
  • Integrated Masters Degree – at level 7
  • First Degrees in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science – at level 7
  • Postgraduate Diploma – at level 7
  • Postgraduate Certificate – at level 7
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Education – at level 6
  • Graduate Diploma – at level 6
  • Graduate Certificate – at level 6
  • Bachelors Degree (with and without Honours) – at level 6
  • Diploma of Higher Education – at level 5
  • Certificate of Higher Education – at level 4

View a list of the academic awards made by the University.

4.18   The University also provides a number of programmes that prepare students for study at degree level:

  • Gateway Year – a year of study at level 4 that is integrated with and prepares students for studying on an identified non-modular professional degree programme. Such years of study are subject to specific programme regulations.
  • Preliminary Year – a year of study at level 4 or equivalent to level 3 in the national Qualifications and Credit Framework that is integrated with and prepares students for studying on an identified modular degree programme. Such years of study are subject to general regulations (see Section 25).
  • Foundation Year – a year of study in a stand-alone programme at level 4 or equivalent to level 3 in the national Qualifications and Credit Framework that prepares students for admission to higher education generally. Such years of study are subject to this Code, with any deviations being captured in specific programme regulations.

4.19   A student who has completed the preliminary or foundation year by passing all the units but who does not proceed onto a University of Bristol programme will receive a University certificate, as specified in the relevant regulations.

Levels of study - units

4.20   The following levels of credit are used by the University, in accordance with the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree Awarding Bodies:

  • level 4 units that are normally taken as part of the first year of an undergraduate programme,
  • level 5 units that are normally taken as part of the second, third or final year of an undergraduate programme.
  • level 6 units that are normally taken as part of the third or final year of an undergraduate programme.
  • level 7 units that are normally taken as part of the final year of a masters or integrated masters programme or the year abroad.

Units may be provided that are equivalent to level 3, as established in the UK Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), where they feature in preliminary year or foundation year programmes.


4.21   The University’s credit framework, which summarises the amount and level of credit required to receive a University award, is reproduced below.

4.22   The amount and level of credit specified in the tables should be regarded as the minimum. If a school wishes to diverge from these amounts, the faculty must seek University level approval, through the University Education Committee.


4.23      The University’s Credit Framework:

QualificationFHEQ LevelTotal credits requiredMinimum credits required at the highest level*Equivalent ECTS creditsAdditional credit requirements
Taught Masters degree  7 At least 180 150 The minimum requirement is 60, however, a range of 90-120 is more typical.  
Integrated Masters degree 7 At least 480 120   Where the programme includes a year away from the University: at least 60 credit points at level 6 in the year spent away from the University and at least 60 credit points at level 7 in the final year
Postgraduate Diploma 7 At least 120 90   Remaining credits to be at level 4 or higher
Postgraduate Certificate (including the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)) 7 At least 60 40    
Bachelors degree with honours 6 At least 360 90 180-240 Remaining credits to include at least 100 at level 5 or above
Bachelors degree (Ordinary degree) 6 At least 300 60    
Professional Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) 6 At least 60 40    
Graduate Diploma 6 At least 80 80    Students may undertake a curriculum of 120 credit points
Graduate Certificate 6 At least 40 40    
Foundation Degree 5 At least 240 90    
Diploma of Higher Education in (Faculty name) (Subject) 5 At least 240 90 Approx. 120

Remaining credits at level 4 or above. 

Certificate of Higher Education in (Faculty name) (Subject) 4 At least 120 120    

* The highest level is the level of the qualification


1       This table should be read in conjunction with the Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Awarding Bodies. The University’s credit framework will apply in cases where the credit requirement is higher than that stated in the national credit framework.

2       The MB,ChB (Medicine), BDS (Dentistry), BVSc (Veterinary Science) and Gateway undergraduate programmes are not included in the University's modular structure.

3       At the discretion of the faculty joint honours degrees may vary from the minimum of 90 credits at level 6 because of the need for more flexible structures in joint programmes.

4       The University’s qualifications relate to the Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area (FQ-EHEA) as follows:

Credit points

4.24      In assigning credit points to units, faculties and schools are required to use total student input per normal full-time year of study as a measure. An average of 40 hours per week of total student input in teaching time is suggested as an appropriate measure of the time an average student will need to spend to be able to complete the assessment for a programme successfully. One credit point represents approximately 10 notional hours of student input.

4.25      The attainment of additional credit points in any year of study cannot be carried forward in such a way as to reduce the volume of credit that must be taken in any succeeding year, or to accelerate a student's progress towards any award.

4.26      A unit shared by students studying on more than one programme must always be allocated the same credit points.

4.27     For awards of the University of Bristol, credit points may only be used once and may not be used towards two or more awards of this University or another higher education provider and the University, with the exceptions as specified in clauses 24.10 and 34.6.

4.28      It is the responsibility of the relevant Faculty Board of Examiners to determine whether a student has satisfied the criteria for the award of credit points.


Shared teaching between undergraduates and postgraduates

4.29     Undergraduate and taught postgraduate students may be taught together. If undergraduate and taught postgraduate students undertake the same unit, with the same learning outcomes and assessment, the credit awarded will be at the pre-defined level of the unit. If the learning outcomes and assessment differ for the undergraduate and postgraduate students, then they are deemed to be undertaking different units; such units must have been previously approved at the different levels.