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What are the different types of degree?

Week 4

2 October 2017

There are many different types of degree. But what do they mean? And which should you choose? Our handy guide explains the abbreviations and the different degree types. From FdEng to BSc via HND, we've got it covered.

HND. FdEng. What do these mean? What's the difference between a BSc and BA? Why are these so many different degrees? And which type of degree should you study?

Confused Jackie Chan

Getting your head around everything involved with going to university can be confusing enough. But when you start looking at the subjects you want to study and the different types of degree, it can feel a little overwhelming.

Each qualification has a series of letters which specify the type of degree - like AS Levels or BTECs. And each type means something slightly different.

It may sound puzzling, but fear not! We've created this handy guide to help clear things up for you. If you have any questions, email the Solent admissions team. Or you can use our live chat below and chat to one of our advisers. They'll be happy to help.

quick guide to different degree types

HNC v HND

What they mean

HNC: Higher National Certificate

HND: Higher National Diploma

The similarities

  • They're classed as an undergraduate qualification, but take less time to complete. 
  • You don't apply through UCAS for these, go directly to the university. 
  • Tend to be for more vocational subjects. 
  • Both can be topped up to a full degree if you wish. 

The differences

  • HND is a higher qualification and is generally the equivalent of the first year of an undergraduate degree. 

Take a look

Check out our HND and HNC courses for some examples: 

HNC courses  

HND courses 

Foundation degree v foundation year

What they mean

FdA: Foundation Degree in Arts

FdSc: Foundation Degree in Science

FdEng: Foundation Degree in Engineering

Foundation year: this isn't a qualification, but acts as part of a bachelor's degree.

The similarities

  • They all have the word 'foundation' in them.

The differences

  • A foundation degree is awarded after two full-time (or three to four part-time) years of university-level study. 
  • With foundation degrees, you can continue studying for another year to top it up to a full degree. 
  • A foundation degree is classed as a university-level qualification. 
  • A foundation year is an extra year of studying that you do before starting a university degree. 
  • A foundation year is not a qualification. It will prepare you for the correct level of university study if you don't have the required amount of UCAS points, or if you want to study a different degree subject to your further education qualifications. 

Take a look

Check out our foundation courses for examples: 

Foundation years

FdA courses

FdEng courses

BA v BEng v BSc v LLB

What they mean

BA: Bachelor of Art

BEng: Bachelor of Engineering

BSc: Bachelor of Science

LLB: Bachelor of Law

The similarities

  • All three are the standard higher education qualifications. 
  • The ones beginning with 'B' mean Bachelor of (Art, Engineering and Science). The LLB is a Bachelor of Law but is an abbreviation of the Latin Legum Baccalaureus (which means Bachelor of Law). 
  • They take around three years to study full-time, although some offer an additional placement year where you can get experience working in industry. Some may also offer a foundation year which prepares you for degree-level study. 
  • You apply through UCAS. 
  • There is a huge range of subjects to choose from. 

The differences

This really depends on the degree you choose to study. BAs tend to be more written and art based. BScs are more practical, written, and science based. BEngs are normally more vocational and practical. 

Take a look

Check out our degrees:

BA degrees

BSc degrees

BEng degrees

LLB degrees 

Top-up v accelerated

The similarities

  • You apply through UCAS for both. 
  • Act as part of a three-year degree. 
  • Reduce the number of years you study.

The differences

  • Top-ups will top-up an existing qualification to a full degree in two years. 
  • Accelerated speeds up a degree so you study it in two years instead of three. 
  • Top-ups require an HND or Foundation degree before studying 

Take a look

We only provide top-ups which you can check out below. Other universities may do accelerated degrees. 

Top-up degrees 

Higher and degree apprenticeships v degrees

The similarities

  • Both will provide you with the skills and qualifications needed to succeed in your career. 
  • You can study both of these from the ages of 18 to 100. 
  • Both offer a wide range of subjects. 

The differences 

  • Apprenticeships can be more practical where you work while you study. Degrees are often more theory and research based.  
  • You get paid to study an apprenticeship whereas you pay to study a degree. 

Take a look

Check out our apprenticeships section for more information 

If in doubt, ask!

Hopefully this has made things a lot clearer for you. But if you're still not sure, get in touch with one of our advisers, or talk to your HE adviser at school or college. They'll be able to explain things fully so you can make an informed decision about what degree type is best for you.

Tasks for this week

  • If you know what subject you want to study, check the types of degree it's available in. There may be an alternative to the 'traditional' three years of study. 
  • If you're still not sure about what each type of degree means, talk to your HE or careers adviser or get in touch with one of our advisers.