Difference Between Honours and Ordinary Degree

Honours vs Ordinary Degree

The difference between Honours and Ordinary degree lies in the achievements of the undergraduate. The system of differentiating between students on the basis of marks obtained, or on the basis of some extra qualification earned, at the undergraduate level has been introduced by the British, and can be seen in many parts of the world with some variations. Though, there has been a parallel Latin system that is used in US and some other countries, the process of awarding Honours degrees is said to be credited to UK. Let us take a closer look at how these degrees are awarded to iron out the confusion people often have between an Honours degree and an ordinary degree.

Sometimes, you see people mentioning their degree on their nam ecards along with the word Honours. There is nothing to be surprised about it, as most universities make this distinction between students, and offer degrees with or without Honours. All candidates sit for honours; some pass it while majority fail to pass it. Those who pass this exam get a degree with honours and, those who fail to qualify, get an ordinary Pass degree. A candidate who fails badly at honours gets another attempt to pass, but he is not given honours; instead, he just gets a pass. Most universities in Britain award honours degree on the basis of average marks secured by the candidate. Students securing 70% or more marks are given First Class honours; 60-70% classifies a student for Upper Second Class Honours; 50-60% gets one Lower Second Class Honours and 40-50% qualifies a student for Third Class Honours. Below this are, of course, ordinary Pass and lastly, Fail.

What is an Ordinary Degree?

An ordinary degree is awarded when one passes the degree exam completing all the expected work though does not have an excellent performance. Ordinary degree is awarded to undergraduates who have obtained below 40% of the total marks but above fail marks. They do not have a class. This is better than being failed. However, if you have studied for three years and has got only an ordinary degree that is not going to be good on your resume.

Difference Between Honours and Ordinary Degree

What is an Honours Degree?

So, Honours is when one passes the degree with good results. That is to say, when an undergraduate passes the degree getting a score between 100 – 40 % of the marks, that undergraduate is offered a degree with First, Second or Third Class Honours. This score is decided by the marks the undergraduate obtains for examinations and assignments. There is also a degree called First Class Honours with Distinction, which is the highest honours that can be achieved. Nationally (in UK), about 10% of students qualify for this achievement while majority of students pass through with Second Class Honours. It is very hard for a student to secure a First Class Honours with Distinction. Even getting a First Class Honours is very difficult in some subject areas as some Universities prefer not to give too many First Class Honours degrees.

However, as described above, this system of awarding honours degree on the basis of average marks obtained is not followed in ditto everywhere. In some universities, an honours degree often means an extra year or extra course completed at the end of the regular degree course. A separate honours year means, either very specialized subject or a thesis and a large project. For example, in a country such as Scotland, to get an Honours degree you have to study for four years. In Australia, you have to study for five or four years to get an Honours degree. Otherwise, you will get a degree without Honours. You will have a class, but no Honours title attached to it.

There is no system of honours degree at master’s level or at the level of doctoral degrees. This is why one does not hear about master’s with honours or doctorate with honours. Those degrees are special anyway, and people know that.

What is the difference between Honours and Ordinary Degree?

• The system of awarding honours degrees at the undergraduate level is common in Britain, and in many other countries of the world.

• All candidates get a chance to pass with honours, and it depends upon their average marks obtained.

• Thus, there is First Class with Honours, Second Class with Honours and so on and lastly there is ordinary Pass.

• In some countries, it is not average marks obtained, but an extra year with specialized subjects put in, that classify one to get an honours degree. Examples of such countries are Scotland and Australia.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Degree holders by Quan Nguyen (CC BY-SA 3.0)