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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Below are the most common queries we receive regarding modular degree programmes. If you have a question about modular programmes that is not covered by the FAQ, or a query about the on-line Undergraduate Module Handbook, please contact us using the Comments and Questions form at the foot of this webpage.

If you have a question about Durham's modular degree programmes, please visit our FAQ webpages,  page or our glossary of terms. If you have a question about modular programmes that is not covered by the FAQ, or a query about the on-line Undergraduate Module Handbook, please contact us.

Prospective Students: If you have a query about a specific module or degree programme, please .

Current Students: Please contact your .


Frequently Asked Questions About Modular Degree Programmes

My Degree Programme is 'modular' - what does this mean?

It means that the academic topics which make up your programme are divided into units called 'modules'. This enables us to make clear what is required for each part of the programme - what you will need to learn and to be able to do - and to ensure that the assessment covers all the key aspects.

Can I choose whatever modules I want?

No. Each degree programme has a set of regulations that set out the modules you are required to take. However, in most programmes, you will have the opportunity to choose some optional modules. The fact that all modules are based on the same 10- or 20-credit 'weighting'  makes it easier to 'fit together' a selection of compulsory and optional modules. However, your choice of optional modules is subject to the approval of your department to ensure that it is academically appropriate, and to timetable compatibility. Not all optional modules will run every year.

What should I do if I want to change programmes?

If you wish to change the degree programme you are studying, you must seek advice from the department(s) concerned at the earliest opportunity. Although we do our best to help students who wish to change module(s) or programme, it becomes progressively more difficult to change as time goes on, because of the amount of work which you will have missed. Please note: changing modules or programme is not an automatic right. More information on the University’s procedures for transfers can be found in the Learning and Teaching Handbook, section 2.1.2.

Do all modules run every year?

No, not all modules run every year. Please check the relevant module outline availability box to see if it is running or not.

How do modules equate to levels?

Each module is set at a particular level depending on how demanding it is. In general, you will take Level 1 modules during Level 1 of your programme (the first year of study for full-time students), Level 2 modules during Level 2 etc. However, the University regulation allow you to take up to 30 credits from the level below (e.g. you could take 30 credits of Level 1 modules during your own Level 2). Whether you can actually do this in practice will depend on the regulations for your own degree programme, and during Level 4 of an integrated masters degree programme, students cannot take any credit from the level below.

Has my programme changed for 2020-21 due to Covid19?

The health, safety and wellbeing of our staff, students and local community is our priority. With this in mind, in 2020-21 we will deliver teaching via a combination of face to face and distance delivery across all of our undergraduate programmes.

In addition, we have also reviewed our programmes and modules for 2020-21, to ensure we are able to deliver a high-quality educational experience that is flexible, accessible and inclusive.

Departments are providing continuing students with summaries of any other significant changes to their programmes, and you can see your programmes and modules in full within the Undergraduate Module handbook, ahead of registration for next year.

For applicants, any changes from our Course Database are summarised here (available from 13th August 2020).

What are 'credits'?

'Credits' measure the 'size' of a module in terms of student workload. Undergraduate modules are based on a 'weighting' of 20 credits which equates to a typical 200 hours of study time (including lectures, classes and private study). Each module may be 10, 20, 40 or 60 credits (or any other multiple of 10 or 20). It cannot be smaller than 10 credits.

This helps to ensure that the workload for all programmes is very similar: although some modules may have lectures and seminars while others may have practical classes and still others may require a lot of private study, each 20 credit module typically requires 200 hours of study time, whether the module is in history or physics or geography.

How do I 'get' credits?

You 'get' credits by passing the assessment for a module. In general, you have to pass all your modules (the pass mark is 40%) to pass the level (year) of study and progress to the next year. Each level of study requires you to take and pass 120 credits (e.g. 6 x 20-credit modules, or 4 x 20-credit modules plus 1 40-credit module, or the equivalent). See also 'resits' and 'compensation'.

What do I need to pass to get a degree?

A Bachelors degree (BA or BSc, for example) usually lasts 3 years and is 360 credits. An integrated Masters degree (a four-year degree such as MSci or MEng, offered in some science subjects) is 480 credits. These are Honours degrees. If you leave the University without completing your degree you can be awarded a Certificate or a Diploma or an Ordinary degree, depending on how many credits you have gained and at what level. This usually only happens if you have failed some of your modules. Your basic assumption should be that you need to pass all your modules at 40% or above each year.

There are two flow charts that show how you progress from one level of study to the next, and what you need to get the various exit qualifications.

The credit requirements for all these awards are as follows:

  • Certificate (Level 1): 120 credits
  • Diploma (Level 2): 240 credits in total including at least 90 Level 2 credits
  • Ordinary degree: 300 credits in total including at least 60 Level 3 credits
  • Bachelor's Honours degree: 360 credits in total including at least 90 Level 3 credits
  • Integrated Masters degree (a 4-year programme like the MEng or MSci):
    480 credits in total including at least 120 Level 4 credits

So you have to pass everything (after resits where permitted) to get an Honours degree. A limited number of modules may also be passed by compensation. If you fail up to one module per year you can leave with an 'exit qualification' in the form of a Certificate or Diploma or you can move into the Ordinary degree stream of your degree programme. You can also get an Ordinary degree, if you fail up to 60 credits either progressively (20 credits per year) or at the end of the programme (for example by failing up to 60 credits in your final year). Note that the phrase 'Level 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 credits' means 'credits from modules set at that level'. You can take modules worth up to 30 credits from the level below the level at which you are studying but you must get the number of credits stated from modules set at the relevant level. For example, you could take the following module combination at Level 3:

  • dissertation - Level 3 module - 40 credits
  • special topic option - Level 3 module - 20 credits
  • core module - Level 3 module - 20 credits
  • additional option - Level 3 module - 20 credits
  • option from another department - Level 2 module - 20 credits.

If you did this your 'Level 3 credits' would have to come from options i-iii above and not from modules iv-v. For an Honours degree, you have to pass all the modules anyway - but it could matter for your 'module count' for the award of an Ordinary degree if you passed your Level 2 modules and failed one or more Level 3 modules.

What about resits?

You can resit any number of modules at Level 1 on one occasion only (in the August / September immediately after the first attempt). You can resit 60 credits at Level 2 (again in the August / September). After that, you can't resit at all. This is because we expect you to learn, during Levels 1 and 2, how to manage your time across a range of topics and to apply yourself to subject areas which you may not find particularly easy. These expectations are reflected in our qualification descriptors. If you pass a resit your mark is capped at 40% (a bare pass) so that you don't get any extra benefit from having had a 'second try'.

What if I fail more than 60 credits at Level 2?

If you fail 80 credits you can resit up to 60 for transfer to the Ordinary degree stream at Level 3. You need to decide, in consultation with your department, which 60 credits to resit, making sure you resit any pre-requisites for the Ordinary degree at Level 3. If all the modules which you have failed are pre-requisites for the Ordinary degree at Level 3 you could resit 60 credits for the possible award of a Diploma only (because you would still have failed a pre-requisite module). If you fail more than 80 credits you cannot resit at all because even if you passed 60 credits you would still be unable to progress to Level 3 or to be awarded a Diploma.

What are module 'components'?

Module components are the blocks of assessment that make up the assessment for a module (e.g. examinations, coursework, practicals etc). If you fail a module we look to see which component(s) you have failed. You don't have to resit any components which you have passed. We then look at the component(s) you have failed to see which elements (individual assessments) you have failed within each component. You resit the failed elements only.

What is 'compensation' and how does it work?

Compensation means allowing marginal failure in a limited number of modules on the basis of an overall performance that is sufficient to merit the award of the qualification concerned. We allow compensation in up to 40 credits at Level 3 of Bachelors degrees provided that you have marks of 30-39% in the modules to be compensated and an average of at least 40% in all the modules for that level of study including the modules to be compensated. So if you had a run of marks like this:

        Module A (single module, 20 credits)    37%
        Module B (double module, 40 credits)   42%
        Module C (double module, 40 credits)   40%
        Module D (single module, 20 credits)     41%
        average                                                40.3%
        (taking into account the double weighting of modules B & C)

the mark for module A could be compensated. You would get the credits for it and be awarded your degree. This compensation can also apply to a Level 2 module which you 'carried' as a failed module into Level 3. However, this is possible only if the module which you have failed does not prevent you achieving the learning outcomes of the programme as a whole. The regulations for each programme indicate modules that are crucial to those learning outcomes and for which compensation cannot be permitted. Such modules often include the dissertation or project module. It is your responsibility to check the regulations and to know which modules this applies to for your own programme. In the same way, we allow compensation in integrated Masters Degrees for up to 40 credits at Level 3 and 20 credits at Level 4.

How does the Ordinary degree work?

This is exactly the same programme of study as the Honours degree. You register for the same number of modules per year and take exactly the same curriculum - you just need to pass fewer modules. The flow-chart sets out the main progression pattern but the following notes may also help:

  • at the end of Level 1 if you have only passed 100 credits you can transfer onto the Ordinary degree in parallel with the Honours degree you started on. You take 120 credits at Level 2, the same as students still on the Honours course, and if you pass them all at the end of the year you can move back into the Honours stream for Level 3. If you pass all your modules that year you will be awarded an Honours degree (despite having only 340 credits, not 360, because you failed a module at Level 1);
  • if you pass only 100 credits at the end of Level 2 you would go into (or stay on) the Ordinary stream for Level 3. Here you would take 120 credits, the same as the Honours degree students. If you achieve 300 credits or more in total with at least 60 credits at Level 3 (which means passing 80 or 100 credits at the end of Level 3, depending on how many modules you have failed previously) you will be awarded an Ordinary degree.  However, if you pass 100 or 120 credits at Level 3, your failed Level 2 module can be compensated (subject to the regulations for compensation described above) so that you can receive an Honours degree;
  • if you pass all your Level 1 and 2 modules and go into the Honours stream for Level 3 but then fail up to 60 credits you can be awarded an Ordinary degree;
  • some programmes specify pre-requisites for study in the Ordinary degree at the next level - so a Level 1 module may be a pre-requisite for study at Level 2 of the Ordinary degree. If you have failed that module you cannot go onto the Ordinary degree (even if you have 100 credits from Level 1) and would have to leave the University with the award of a Certificate. The same applies moving from Level 2 to Level 3 of the Ordinary degree.
Is there anything else I should know?

You may also wish to look at the University's level descriptors and qualification descriptors which set out what students are expected to have achieved at the end of each level of study and at the end of each whole qualification. The University's generic assessment criteria give a general indication of the standards we set for the various mark-bands. You should also ask your department for the subject-specific assessment criteria which will be used to mark your work. 

What are 'collections'?

'Collections' are Faculty approved examinations, which students are required to take at the beginning of the Epiphany Term in January. 'Collections' are intended to provide information on how students have progressed in the early stages of their degree programme.