University Tips Blog
Image showing the different types of subjects students can study at university
A headshot image of the author, Jen Barton

by Jen Barton

Student Recruitment Manager at Durham University

posted on 15 Nov '21

A school and college guide to the different types of university courses

Understanding different options for university study can be challenging for your students. The language used can also be difficult to understand when they are unfamiliar with it. We have therefore created a guide to the different types of courses that are available.

What is a Foundation degree?

The first level of study at university is a foundation degree, intended to help bridge the gap between school or college and university. They are typically one year and offer direct entry on the relevant bachelor’s degree.

What does the term undergraduate mean?

A bachelor’s degree is the most common type of undergraduate degree. These include BA (Hons), BSc (Hons), BEng (Hons) and LLB (Hons). In these courses ‘Hons’ stands for honours, which usually means students study for three years, or sometimes four if they have a sandwich year or year abroad.

What is a BSc and BA degree?


This is a Bachelor of Science and they are typically science-based degree subjects, like Chemistry, Biology and Physics, but often subjects like Psychology, Maths and Computer Science too. This type of degree will often have a strong focus on analytical and statistical skills.


This is a Bachelor of Arts, they are often less specialised and focus more on qualitative thinking, creativity, theory and critical thinking. Typically, this includes subjects such as English, History, Politics and Sociology. Some subjects offer both a BSc and a BA, for example, Anthropology and Sport, depending on whether it’s more scientific or theory based.

What is an Integrated Master’s - and how is that different?

An integrated master’s usually takes four years. Integrated master’s qualifications include MSc, MEng (Engineering) and MChem (Chemistry). A master’s degree enables students to become a subject specialist and move directly onto further study or a particular career path.

Introducing the key postgraduate qualifications students may later pursue

Once students have completed an undergraduate degree, there are then many options to progress on to postgraduate study.


This is the next level up from a bachelor’s degree. Students follow the same sort of title as outlined above, MA, MSc, MEng, and take between one and two years. This can also lead to PhD level study.


Master of Business. This is an internationally recognised business degree and usually takes two years to complete.


This is the qualification that is usually required to become a teacher and takes one year to complete, or two part-time. Students will need a degree in the relevant qualification for this.

Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip) and Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert)

This is also an option following a bachelor’s degree. They can often fit around a job and are at the same level as a masters.


A PhD usually comes after a master’s and typically takes four to six years to complete. It is a research based qualification requiring students to write a thesis, based on their research.

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