Modular Course Structure; Qualifications and Credit Framework

Modular Course Structure

The University’s courses are modular in structure. A module is a component of a course or undergraduate Honours subject with its own approved aims and outcomes and assessment methods.

Each module is taught and assessed within a semester or across the whole year (often referred to as ‘long-thin’).  Modules are combined in integrated programmes of study leading to awards or in Honours subject strands.

In addition to Single Honours degrees, Honours degrees are available for combinations of two or more distinct subjects where there is internal coherence within the subjects, but there is no expectation of integration between them.

Honours subjects may therefore be offered as Single Honours degrees, or as Major (two-thirds weighting – 80 credit points at each of levels 5 and 6), Main (half-weighting – 60), or Minor (40) subject strands.

The following combinations of strands may be approved: Major/Main; Main/Main (Joint); or three Minor (Combined).

Credit points and a credit level, appropriate to the module’s content and learning outcomes are allocated in accordance with the overall requirements of the award.

Qualifications and Credit Framework

The University’s awards are designed to meet the generic outcomes set out in the national Framework for Higher Education Qualifications published by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

The Qualifications are grouped in five Higher Education levels from 4 to 8. A lower level (3) may be used in some courses in accordance with the limits in the University’s Framework. Levels 1 and 2 are only found in Access Diplomas.

Full details of the content, assessment requirements and regulations for your course are contained in the course/subject (and module) handbook(s).

Individual course regulations conform to the general regulations for the award in question. They set out the conditions for progression between stages of the course, the consequences of failure and the requirements for the final award and its classification.

Awards are only conferred if you are successful and have paid all fees and debts owed to the University.

Qualifications and credit framework

‘This table summarises the requirements for the University’s awards in terms of qualification/credit level and credit points.  The actual requirements for your particular course within these bounds are set out in the course regulations.’

At level 4, study of more than two or three subjects may be possible.

Levels

‘The final award for a course has a particular qualification level, and each module has a credit level.  These levels are aligned and use the same numbers.  Courses may include modules at a number of levels, in accordance with the University’s qualification and credit framework.’

Credit levels are indicators of relative demand, complexity and depth of learning and student autonomy. Each module is assigned a particular level in a progressive series as follows:

  • Level 3 : pre-Higher Education access level
  • Level 4 : the standard generally associated with the first year of a full-time undergraduate degree course
  • Level 5 : the standard generally associated with the second year of a full-time undergraduate degree course
  • Level 6 : final year honours standard
  • Level 7: postgraduate level (Master’s)
  • Level 8 : Doctoral level

Each credit level has a generic descriptor which indicates the characteristics of the learning at that level and what a successful student is able to do. These are presented in an abbreviated form in the table below. They are in common usage in the UK higher education system.

Level 3 Apply knowledge and skills in a range of complex activities demonstrating comprehension of relevant theories. Access and analyse information independently and make reasoned judgements, selecting from a wide choice of procedures in familiar and unfamiliar contexts.
Level 4 Develop a rigorous approach to the acquisition of a broad knowledge base. Employ a range of specialised skills and evaluate information using it to plan and develop investigative strategies. Determine solutions to unpredictable problems.
Level 5 Generate ideas through the analysis of concepts at an abstract level with a command of specialised skills and the formulation of responses to well defined and abstract problems. Analyse and evaluate information; exercise significant judgement across a broad range of functions.
Level 6 Critically review, consolidate and extend a systematic and coherent body of knowledge. Critically evaluate new concepts and evidence from a range of sources. Transfer and apply diagnostic and creative skills and exercise significant judgement in a range of situations.
Level 7 (Master’s) Display mastery of a complex and specialised area of knowledge and skills, employing advanced skills to conduct research or advanced technical or professional activity.
Level 8 (Doctoral) Make a significant and original contribution to a specialised field of enquiry demonstrating a command of methodological issues and engaging in critical dialogue with peers.

Module Size, Effort Hours and Study Load

Taught modules may have any value in multiples of 5 credit points. The common sizes in undergraduate courses are 20 and 10 credit points and in postgraduate courses 30 and 15 credit points.

Notionally one credit point represents 10 hours of effort. The normal workload for a full-time course of study in the standard academic year (comprising the autumn and spring semesters) is 120 credit points. This amounts to some 36-42 hours of study per week (inclusive of class contact, practicals, fieldwork, private study, and assessment).

Courses of significantly longer duration comprise additional modules, taken during the summer semester. Some part-time courses allow flexibility in the number of modules which may be studied each year.

The maximum part-time study load is 90 credits in a two-semester year (or 135 in a full calendar year) with 45 credits per semester, except in the intensive summer semester where 20 may be taken.

The undergraduate project/dissertation may count as one or two modules. Periods of placement which are assessed in relation to the learning objectives of the course carry credit points. The Placement may be integrated in an existing module or be a separate module.

Postgraduate Courses

Master’s courses usually have a total of one hundred and eighty credit points. Full-time courses are completed in one calendar year, with 60 credit points being accumulated in each of three semesters.

In Master’s courses which integrate a Postgraduate Certificate and a Postgraduate Diploma, these represent 60 and 120 credit points respectively.

Some Master’s degrees carry 240 credit points.

Course Flexibility and Student Choice

Full-time students are expected to take a balanced study load of 60 credits in each semester. Exceptionally you may be permitted to vary this, for example because you wish to study a particular optional module which is only offered in one semester, with the course or subject committee’s approval.

You must still study modules amounting to 120 credits in the year, with normally no more than 80 credits in one semester and no less than 40 in the other.

In appropriate cases, depending on academic performance, you may transfer from your original course to a related course at a different or the same level.

The credit framework, which is compatible with that operated by many other universities, will assist in assessing your suitability and potential exemptions if you wish to transfer to another course or institution.  If the match between courses is very close, a course or subject committee may allow you to take an extra module, and therefore a heavier study load than normal, to make up a gap during a year. It will take account of prerequisites, timetable constraints, the content and level of your previous studies and your abilities in deciding the appropriate point of entry.

Additionally, some courses contain an element of delayed choice. You may be able to postpone the decision to opt for a single subject or interdisciplinary course, or a major, joint or minor course until the beginning of the second year.

Optional modules are commonly available, allowing you to follow particular preferences. Particular options may not be available every year, have prerequisites, or require a minimum or maximum class size.

The University’s Personal and Professional Development frameworks are offered at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels by the Centre for Flexible and Continuing Education.  Each framework provides opportunities to upskill, shape your career or enhance your employability. A range of flexible credit-bearing short-courses provides you with the opportunity to study modules from across the Faculties.

Whilst all courses can be studied as stand-alone modules, you can also build towards full awards and on achieving 60 credit points you will be eligible for either an undergraduate Certificate of Personal and Professional Development or Postgraduate Certificate of Professional Development depending on the level of your study.

Furthermore, current students enrolled on other programmes of study may choose to take additional modules from the framework in order to enhance their employability prospects.