Degree abbreviations are used as an alternative way to specify an academic degree instead of spelling out the title in full, such as in reference books such as Who's Who and on business cards. Many degree titles have more than one possible abbreviation, with the abbreviation used varying between different universities. In the UK it is normal not to punctuate abbreviations for degrees with full stops (e.g. "BSc" rather than "B.Sc."), although this is done at some universities.
The Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies lays down five levels of qualification with the title of degree: foundation (not in Scotland), ordinary and honours bachelor's (only separate levels in Scotland), master's and doctoral. These relate to specific outcome-based level descriptors and are tied to the Bologna Process.
It is common to put the name of the awarding institute in brackets after the degree abbreviation, e.g. BA (Lond). A list of standard abbreviations for British universities can be found at Universities in the United Kingdom § Post-nominal abbreviations.
Note that the lists below include historical degrees that may not currently be offered in British universities.
For historical reasons some universities (the ancient universities of England and Scotland) do not fully adhere to the Framework (particularly with respect to the title of Master of Arts), and degrees in medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine are titled as bachelor's degrees despite being at master's level.
The usage in the ancient universities is not consistent with the Framework or the Bologna Process. The ancient universities of England (Oxford and Cambridge) grant an MA degree that is not a substantive qualification but reflects the ancient practice of these universities of promoting BAs to MAs (and thus full membership of the University) a few years after graduating (see Master of Arts (Oxbridge and Dublin)). The ancient universities of Scotland award an undergraduate MA (see Scottish MA) instead of a BA. For students to obtain a master's degree consistent with the framework in these ancient English universities, they have created the MSt (Master of Studies) to address this anomaly and differentiate between the degrees, both master's.
The MAs from Aberdeen, Heriot-Watt, Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews are considered bachelor's level qualifications on the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications and first cycle qualifications under the Bologna Process, while the Oxbridge MAs are considered "not academic qualifications" (the actual qualification being the BA).
Conversely, some bachelor's degrees in the "higher faculties" at the older universities in the UK (e.g. those other than arts at Oxford and Cambridge) are postgraduate qualifications (e.g. the BCL and BMus at Oxford). Many have been changed to the corresponding master's degree (e.g. BSc is now MSc at Oxford), but only within the last generation. The BD (Bachelor of Divinity) remains a higher degree at some universities (e.g. Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews and, until recently, Durham) but is an undergraduate degree at most (e.g. London, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow).
Bachelor's degrees in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science, while undergraduate degrees, are longer courses and are considered to be master's level qualifications in the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications and second cycle qualifications under the Bologna Process.
There is an international (but not universal) custom that certain degrees will be designated '.... of Philosophy'. Examples are the BPhil (Bachelor of Philosophy), MPhil (Master of Philosophy) and PhD or DPhil (Doctor of Philosophy). Most recipients of such degrees have not engaged in a specialised study of academic philosophy - the degree is available for almost the whole range of disciplines. The origins lie in the ancient practice of regarding all areas of study as elements of 'philosophy' with its Greek meaning, 'friend of wisdom'. Thus holders of an MPhil degree may have earned it in any academic discipline.
These qualifications sit at level 5 (foundation level) of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications and are short cycle (within or linked to the first cycle) qualifications under the Bologna Process.
See also Foundation degree.
Most British bachelor's degrees are honours degrees and indicated by putting "(Hons)" after the degree abbreviation. A student achieving a pass grade, below honours standard, may be awarded an "ordinary degree" or a "pass degree" and may not add "(Hons)".
As noted above, the MAs of the ancient universities of Scotland are also at this level and may also add "(Hons)" aft their acronyms. Both these and bachelor's degrees with honours at Scottish universities are four-year courses at level 10 of the Framework for Qualifications of Higher Education Institutes in Scotland. Scottish bachelor's degrees without honours (including non-honours MAs from the ancient universities of Scotland) are three-year course with less specialisation (an Ordinary Degree or a General Degree) at level 9 of the Framework for Qualifications of Higher Education Institutes in Scotland.
Some of the following are postgraduate degrees in a few universities, but generally bachelors are undergraduate degrees.
Undergraduate-entry "Integrated master's" degrees are offered with honours, and so may add (hons) after the degree abbreviation. These are substantive master's degrees integrating undergraduate and master's level study, with the final qualification being at the same level as postgraduate master's.
Primary qualifications in medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine are taken as undergraduate-entry courses and are denominated bachelor's degrees, but are normally offered without honours These are also qualifications at the same level as postgraduate master's degrees, but retain the name of bachelor's for historical reasons. The Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery are always taken together as the primary medical qualification in the UK, equivalent to the American MD.
Note that where there is a similarly titled postgraduate master's degree, the formulation " Master in ..." is used for the undergraduate degree and "Master of ..." for the postgraduate degree (e.g. MArt/MA, MSci/MSc). Where there is no equivalent postgraduate degree, either "in" or "of" is used.
Postgraduate master's degrees may be either taught degrees or research degrees. Taught master's degrees may be awarded by an institution with taught degree awarding powers; master's degrees by research (e g MPhil, MRes), where over half of the student's effort is in original research, require research degree awarding powers. Postgraduate degrees are not normally honours degrees and thus do not add "(Hons)". Some degrees may be offered as either integrated master's or postgraduate master's courses at different institutes, e.g. MEng and MArch.
A few postgraduate degrees at Oxford are titled as bachelor's degrees. These are, nonetheless, master's level qualifications.
UK Doctoral degrees are at level 8 of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications and are third cycle qualifications under the Bologna Process. All doctoral degrees include "original research or other advanced scholarship" demonstrating "the creation and interpretation of new knowledge".
Due to the flexibility of Latin word order, there are two schools in the abbreviation of doctor's degrees. The two ancient universities of England split on this: at Cambridge, D follows the faculty (e.g. PhD, LittD.), while at Oxford the D precedes the faculty (e.g. DPhil, DLitt). Most universities in the UK followed Oxford for the higher doctorates but followed international precedent in using PhD for Doctor of Philosophy and professional doctorates.
The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications lays down the naming convention that Doctor of Philosophy is reserved for doctorates awarded on the basis of examination by thesis or publication, or by artefact, composition or performance accompanied by written academic commentary. Other doctorates (typically styled professional or specialist doctorates) that have substantial taught elements normally include the field in the name of the degree.
Higher doctorates are normally awarded as honorary degrees (honoris causa), but can also be awarded on the basis of a substantial body of published work. DUniv is only ever an honorary degree. Some degrees awarded as higher doctorates by one institution may be awarded as professional doctorates by another (e.g. EngD).
The Department's brand is a unique asset. Civic Design is the only university department in the world to bear that name and the Master of Civic Design (MCD) is the only taught postgraduate degree with that label.