Skip to main content
Solent Unviersity Southampton logo
Solent Unviersity Southampton logo

What are the different types of degree?

Week 4

2 October 2023

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

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

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 start to feel a little overwhelming.

Confused Jackie Chan

Each qualification has a series of letters which specify the type of degree. It's not that different to A-Levels, BTECs, or T-Levels, with each type meaning something different.

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

quick guide to different degree types

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 HNC courses for some examples: 

HNC courses   

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

  • There's not really any, other than that 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

FdSc courses

FdEng courses

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 what we offer as an example:

BA degrees

BSc degrees

BEng degrees

LLB degrees 

What they mean

  • Top-up: Essentially you top up your qualifications to a degree.
  • Accelerated: A degree which you complete in a shorter time.

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 one year.
  • 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

Most of our degrees are offered as a top-up, make sure you check out the entry requirements section of your chosen course for more information:

Top-up degrees

What they mean

  • Higher and degree apprenticeship: You will be in full-time employment and study part-time for a degree qualification.
  • Degrees: You will be studying full-time for a degree qualification.

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 are when you work full time whilst you study and will be paid for by your employer and the government
  • Degrees are full time study (you can have a part-time job!) and you will have to fund your degree with either student loans, or by paying them yourself.

Take a look

Check out our apprenticeships section for more information 

Test your knowledge

Now you've read everything, take our little quiz to see what you remember. Don't cheat and scroll back up though!

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.