Bachelor Degrees

The normal Australian student completes his higher school certificate after 12 years at school, and then enrols in a Bachelor degree. There are several kinds of bachelor degrees, which vary in length. The names of bachelor (and other) degrees are chosen by the university awarding them. They are not bound by unnecessary government rules, in contrast with German bachelor degrees. A bachelor degree which is not an honours degree (see section 3.4) is called a pass degree. The student receives a grading for a pass degree which corresponds to the marking scheme discussed above in section 2.3. In this context the word "pass" is not being used to indicate a grading, in contrast with the use of this word in the context of grading schemes (see section 2.3).

Three Year Bachelor Degrees

The normal duration of most bachelor degrees is three years. These include most of the classical degrees, such as the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science, but there are many other bachelor degrees, which are frequently, but not always, named after the faculty which offers them (e.g. Bachelor of Information Technology). But they can also be named according to specific disciplines (e.g. Bachelor of Computer Science) and it is quite common to find that the name of the degree is qualified by the name of a specialisation, e.g. Bachelor of Information Technology (Multimedia).

Professional Bachelor Degrees

Some bachelor degrees, typically those controlled by a professional body (i.e. in areas such as engineering, architecture, psychology, medicine, etc.) have a longer standard study time than three years (mostly four but sometimes five). Their names usually reflect the name of the Faculty offering the degree, e.g. Bachelor of Engineering, but a more precise title is possible, e.g. Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical Engineering), or simply Bachelor of Electrical Engineering.

Bachelor Degrees with Honours

This is another example of how the German degree rules show a complete misunderstanding of the Anglo-American university systems. The Bachelor degree with honours plays a central role in these systems. It (and not a Master degree) is what normally qualifies a student to enter a research degree programme. Yet I have been told that it is actually forbidden for German universities to award honours degrees! For a fuller discussion of this issue see section 6.)

The name of a bachelor degree with honours is normally the same name as that of the pass degree on which it is based, followed by the additional phrase "with Honours". When abbreviating the degree, the name of the degree is followed by the addition "(Hons)". Thus a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours is abbreviated to BSc (Hons).

There are two ways of organising honours degrees in Australia.

a) If the pass degree on which it is based is a three year degree (see section 3.1 above) then the honours degree is usually a separate degree which requires an additional one year of study (In Germany this would be called an Aufbaustudium). Only those students who get good marks in their pass degree are invited by the faculty to enter the honours degree course.

b) If the basic pass degree takes longer than three years to study (see section 3.2 above) then normally no extra time is required to obtain the honours version of the degree, but the honours designation is awarded only to students who achieve good results.

Almost all honours degrees include an "honours project". This is typically equivalent to a workload of one semester (and is thus equivalent to a German Diplomarbeit or Masterarbeit).

The grading of honours degree results is different from that of pass degrees (which is described in section 2.3). An honours degree is usually awarded with a division or class, e.g. division one (first class), division 2A (upper second class), division 2B (lower second class) and division 3 (third class). One can generally assume that division one is equivalent to HD, class 2A to D, 2B to C and 3 to P in the marking scheme described in section 2.3 above.

The unit names and descriptions for one year honours degrees – see a) above – are often not very informative, having names such as "Honours biology I" etc. The reason for this is that the lectures are often based on the research interests of research staff and vary from year to year. However, if it is important to you that units are offered in a particular area, then I can enquire for you whether lectures and/or projects in your area of interest are likely to be available in the year you plan to enrol in a particular degree.

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