Honours degree

Almost all students apply to study for an Honours degree at the University of St Andrews. Our undergraduate degrees, like those at other Scottish universities, are usually studied full time over four years. The first two years (also known as ‘sub-honours’) allow you to get a broad understanding of the subject that you applied to study at St Andrews, as well as other courses of interest to you. The final two years (also known as ‘honours’) give the opportunity to specialise in your chosen subject(s).

All students who undertake an Honours degree do so in one of the University's four Faculties: Arts, Divinity, Medicine, and Science. The structure that your Honours degree takes will depend on the subjects you choose to study and which Faculty you are studying in.

The University offers four different types of Honours degrees which are distinguished from one another by the subjects you choose to study in your final two years:

  • Single Honours degrees, which involve the specialist study of just one subject in the final two years.
  • Joint Honours degrees, which involve the specialist study of two (or occasionally three) subjects in equal proportions in the final two years.
  • Interdisciplinary degrees, such as the MA in Mediaeval Studies, which involves the study of up to three subjects in varying proportions.
  • Honours degrees with a major, which allow the majority of modules to be taken in one specialist subject alongside another minor subject in the final two years.
  • Integrated Masters degrees, which are usually Science degrees which involve three years of study at Honours level

Understanding modules

The University operates a modular degree system. Modules are self-contained courses which usually run for one semester. Different modules are worth different amounts of credit; passing the module gains you the appropriate number of credits. A student usually takes modules worth 120 credits in each year of study. All these credits then count towards the total required for your degree; most honours degrees requires 480 credits, although an Integrated Masters requires 600 credits. Potential students can investigate some of the modules offered in the Module Catalogue

Can I take modules from another Faculty?

You must take the specified modules for your particular degree programme, but it is possible within your overall programme of study to take up to 80 credits in total from another Faculty. There are, however, sometimes restrictions for very popular subjects because priority is always given to students already within that Faculty. Before finalising your module choices, you will meet and discuss them with your Adviser of Studies during Orientation Week.

Students who are not in the Faculty of Medicine will be unable to study any element of the Medicine programme. Students who are in the Faculty of Medicine are unable to take modules from outside of the Medicine programme.

Sub-honours years

We recognise that many students are at first unsure of the degree programme to which they wish to commit themselves. Due to this, study in the first two years is reasonably flexible and gives you a chance to enrol in other subjects in addition to the ones you applied for. There are a few constraints on this depending on the particular modules you are choosing. Medicine is the exception – students studying Medicine at St Andrews will find that all modules are specified as part of the Medicine programme.

In the first year you will be required to study between two and three subjects, and in the second year you will usually carry on at least two of these subjects, sometimes three. You must take the first year modules in the subject(s) for which you were offered a place at St Andrews, and then you are able to choose your other modules from a wide range. 

Some students applying for a Science degree may be able to apply directly into second year

Honours years

Towards the end of your second year, if your work has been of a suitable standard, you can make a final choice of Honours programme from the second level subjects that you have already studied. It is in the final two years that you will be able to specialise and gain an intimate knowledge of your chosen subject(s). Students who do not meet the Faculty threshold to progress to an Honours degree may qualify to progress to the MA or BSc General Degree.

If you do not meet the Faculty grades required to progress to an Honours degree, you may instead choose to progress to a General Degree.

Your degree

Depending on which Faculty you join and which subject you study, you may graduate with any of the following Honours degrees:

  • In the Faculty of Arts the degree is called a Master of Arts (MA) which is equivalent to a Bachelor of Arts (BA) elsewhere. However we are unique in also offering a BA (International Honours) degree.
  • In the Faculty of Science the typical degree is a Bachelor of Science (BSc). We also offer extended undergraduate programmes culminating with a Master in Biochemistry (MBiochem), Master in Chemistry (MChem), Master in Geology (MGeol), Master in Mathematics (MMath), Master in Physics (MPhys) and Master in Science (MSci). These Integrated Masters courses typically take one year longer than the standard BSc degree.
  • In the Faculty of Divinity the typical undergraduate degree is a Master of Theology (MTheol). We also offer Master of Arts (MA) in several subject areas of Divinity.
  • In the Faculty of Medicine the degree is called a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Medicine. The St Andrews element of this degree is three years in length.

Degree classification

Honours degrees are classified according to how well you have performed in the final two years (or in the final three for MBiochem, MChem, MGeol, MMath, MPhys and MSci degrees), and you are awarded with First Class Honours, Second Class Honours (2.1 or 2.2), or Third Class Honours degree.