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British degree abbreviations

Abbreviations are normally used to specify a degree, rather than spelling out the name in full. 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 M.A.s are given out in place of B.A.s 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 M.A. degree is not a substantive qualification, but reflects the ancient practice of these universities of raising B.A.s to M.A.s (and thus full membership of the University) a few years after graduating. Conversely, some bachelors degrees in the higher faculties (i.e. those other than arts) at those universities are postgraduate qualifications (e.g. the B.C.L and B.Mus. at Oxford). Many have been changed to the corresponding masters degree (e.g. B.Sc. is now M.Sc.), but only within the last generation. The B.D. 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 grants B.A.s after three years to students on undergraduate courses lasting longer than this (the undergraduate masters degrees and the M.B.,B.Ch. 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. Honour degrees are usually awarded with first, upper-second, lower-second or third class honours, though Oxford retains a fourth-class degree; to earn one is said to require considerable ingenuity.

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.

Table of contents
1 Bachelors degrees
2 Masters degrees
3 Doctors degrees
4 See also:

Bachelors degrees

These are normally awarded as honours degrees, sometimes indicated by '(hons)' after the degree abbreviation.

Some of the following are postgraduate degrees in a few universities, but generally bachelors are undergraduate degrees.

See also Bachelor's degree.

Masters degrees

See also Master's degree.


These, like most bachelors degrees, are honours degrees, indicated by putting '(hons)' after the degree abbreviation. The undergraduate M.A.s of some scottish universities are also honours degrees and may also add '(hons)'. M.Eng. 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. M.A. (hons) is only used for the undergraduate degree of the ancient scottish universities, the M.A.s of Oxford and Cambridge are not honours degrees, but are indicated by putting the name of the institution after the degree, thus 'M.A. (Oxon)' or 'M.A. (Cantab)'. The M.Phil. is normally reserved for longer (often two year) research-based masters degrees. The M.Univ. is only ever an honorary degree.

Doctors degrees

There are two schools in the abbreviation of doctor's degrees. At Cambridge, the abbreviation is from the Latin title of the degree, leading to the D. following the faculty (e.g. Ph.D., Litt.D.), while at Oxford the abbreviation is from 'Doctor of ...', leading to the D. preceeding the faculty (e.g. D.Phil., D.Litt.). Most universities in the UK followed Oxford for the higher doctorates but followed international precedent in using Ph.D. 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 Ed.D.). 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 (hons causa), but can also be awarded on the basis of published work. Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) is sometimes a higher doctorate and sometimes a professional doctorate. D.Univ. is only ever an honorary degree.

See also Doctorate.

Junior Doctors

Higher Doctors

See also: