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On the Shape of your Degree

This is complicated, can you explain more simply?

The degree offers too many possibilities to be reduced to a simple formula.

It may help if I illustrate by means of an example for an applicant wishing to apply to combine the two subjects Computer Science and Mathematics which is defined at CFG0/FGC0.

For current BSc students following the "Joint-Honours" rules, they would graduate with a “BSc in Computer Science and Mathematics within the Natural Sciences programme” - there would also be the potential of a transfer at the end of Year 1 into either Single Honours Computer Science or Mathematics. Now we discuss some of the options (breathe deeply):

If they diverted from the "Joint-Honours" pathway (for instance taking a Level 1 Mathematics module in Year 2) but still only studied Maths and Computer Science and adhered to the degree rules, then they would graduate with a "BSc in Natural Sciences. The subjects in which modules have been taken successfully in the final two years are as follows: Computer Science and Mathematics."

If they diverted from the "Joint-Honours" pathway but still studied Maths and Computer Science, took enough of another subject from those available (for instance 20 credits of Business in years 2 and 3) and adhered to the degree rules, then they would graduate with a "BSc in Natural Sciences. The subjects in which modules have been taken successfully in the final two years are as follows: Business, Computer Science and Mathematics."

If they took the year abroad option, then they would graduate with a "BSc in Computer Science and Mathematics with Year Abroad within the Natural Sciences programme”.

If they took the placement year option, then they would graduate with a "BSc in Computer Science and Mathematics with Placement within the Natural Sciences programme”.

If they chose to follow the 4-year MSci degree, the two subjects could still be combined in the final year to graduate with an “MSci in Natural Sciences. The subjects in which modules have been taken successfully in the final two years are as follows: Computer Science and Mathematics.” Note that not all subjects offered within Natural Sciences are taught in Year 4.

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What can change after Year 1?

Having selected the first year’s subjects, the normal expectation is that at the end of Year 1, students carry on studying at least one of their subjects. But options exist, of course. In the case where a student wishes to:

  • continue into Year 2;
  • only continue with one of the Year 1 subjects;
  • not transfer into a single honours programme;
  • and keep breadth to the degree…

They pick up 40 credits (from a total of 120 credits) of a new subject offered via Natural Sciences. Popular choices are Business, Computer Science, Earth Sciences, Education and Geography.

A student who takes at least 40 credits in each of two subjects in Year 2 and shows good progression may also start a new subject, they are not required to take 20 credits of that new subject.

I told you it was complicated. Remember, during the degree you will be discussing options with academic staff who will help you work out your own balance of interests and possibilities within the degree framework.

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Can I include a year abroad?

The way the year abroad works depends on whether you are a BSc or MSci student. Information about the choice of courses at the host university of the Overseas Exchange Programme can be found on host universities’ websites. Exceptionally, students may take a European placement with the agreement of a Durham single honours department where students study at Durham, see opportunities for Science students. Students cannot be transferred onto the year abroad programme until their place has been secured (it is a competitive process) and they have successfully completed Level 2 of the degree with an average mark of at least 55% so as to be eligible to progress to Level 3 of the Honours degree programme. For this reason students are unable to make a direct application for year abroad degrees through UCAS.

BSc Natural Sciences with Year Abroad

Within the 4-year BSc degree with Year Abroad, the placement is an extra year of study added to the normal programme of study of the 3-year BSc Natural Sciences degree. The learning outcomes of study placements in this context are the experience of having studied in an overseas institution and the experience of having lived in a foreign environment. While there is no need to meet any other learning outcomes, it is departmental policy that the programme of study undertaken during the year abroad must be (1) sufficiently ambitious, and (2) deepen or broaden the student’s knowledge of the subjects, or/and contribute to prepare him/her for graduate employment. The programme of study should also aim at maintaining the student’s skills.


Students will be assessed by the host institution in the same way as their own students. The marks awarded will be used by the Board of Examiners to decide whether the year abroad has been passed or not; however, they will not be transferred onto the Durham scale. If the year abroad is deemed to have been failed then you will be transferred onto the BSc and the Year Abroad will not be mentioned in your degree title, otherwise failure will have no consequence on your final degree class. If the Year Abroad is successful then it may be taken into account by the Board of Examiners when deciding on your degree class by exercising discretion.

MSci Natural Sciences

Placements abroad within the MSci degree are in replacement of the third year of study in Durham and the title year abroad does not appear on the degree certificate. While their primary aim is to provide the experience of having lived and studied abroad, their learning objectives are the same as those of the replaced modules. The courses taken abroad, complemented by additional self-study if necessary, will thus need to cover the same range of material and meet the same learning outcomes.

Students will be assessed by the host institution in the same way as their own students. At the end of the placement, the marks or grades students will have obtained abroad will be transferred onto the Durham scale as per a grade transfer document and aggregated into an overall mark. The latter will be the mark for the third year of your degree. Students will receive a copy of the grade transfer document in advance of departure. Poor performance in courses taken abroad resulting in a low overall mark may compromise students’ final degree class or even students’ progression to the final year of the degree; however, any such case will be scrutinized by the Board of Examiners, which may take into account extenuating circumstances and exercise discretion.

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Do you offer a placement/internship degree?

A qualified yes! A placement is a great opportunity to learn new skills in the workplace, looks good on your CV and aids your "employability". It is taken in-between year 2 and final year and consists of paid employment for at least 40 weeks with an employer in a subject aligned with your chosen subjects of study. For example, students studying Bioscience or Chemistry may carry out a research project for a drug company or work for a science consulting firm. Students studying Computer Science may work for an IT firm. There are various types of employers: hospitals, financial institutions, small biotech companies, research institutes, and large industrial companies.

It is the student’s responsibility to secure a placement opportunity but the University and Natural Sciences are happy to guide you along the way: to help in the search and to advise.

Notes:

  • Placement positions must be approved by the University
  • Currently, the Natural Sciences degree with Placement is only available to students completing a BSc degree; it is under review for the MSci where it is currently unavailable
  • Home and EU students may only be registered for the Placement degree once the placement has been secured by the student and approved which is at the end of Year 2. Non-EU students can be registered for the degree at the start of Year 2.

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