“Comparable to British Bachelor degree standard”: what does this comparison statement mean?Posted: March 17, 2017
Some UK NARIC evaluations state that an award can be “considered comparable to British Bachelor degree standard”.
This might appear in UK NARIC statements of comparability issued to individuals, or in our qualification databases used by educational institutions and employers.
Some of our users are unclear about how to treat this evaluation – is it Bachelor Hons, Bachelor Ordinary, or a more general statement?
To get to the crux of the matter first – this comparability is in relation to degree-level qualifications from a national education system as a whole. The comparability is made to ‘British Bachelor standard’ because it is not possible to make a comparison to Ordinary or Honours standard for all degree qualifications from that system across the board.
Therefore, when it comes to assessing the qualifications held by an individual – for example, if you are an admissions officer looking at an application for entry – then in these cases, you will need to delve into more detail on what the applicant has studied, before deciding if the individual’s degree is closer to Ordinary or Honours standard. For example, you will probably have to examine an individual transcript, and perhaps look at how much independent study has been done, and whether a dissertation has been completed.
To give wider context, it’s worth considering the relatively specialised character of upper secondary studies in the British school system. Pupils typically narrow their focus to three or four subjects aged 16 (or perhaps five in Scotland). These relatively tightly focused qualifications can be used for entry into Bachelor degrees which are usually fairly specialised from the outset.
In contrast, many international school pupils continue to study in excess of 10 subjects right through to the end of upper secondary.
This UK upper secondary approach feeds through to the first year or two of UK Bachelor courses, with Honours programmes normally characterised by more independent research and a dissertation in the final year.
In some countries, the huge number of autonomous institutions, and differences in quality assurance structures, mean that standards and course content can vary considerably.
While some programmes require a high level of specialisation and independent research, others are more general and include a high proportion of taught content. Courses in the first category could be considered comparable to a British Honours degree: those in the second category, probably not. Yet all graduates from that national system would potentially be awarded the same qualification title.
It is in these situations that UK NARIC cannot guarantee that all degree qualifications from that country will be Honours standard across the board. Some may be, however. So a more nuanced judgement has to be made in individual cases, depending on an analysis of the transcript and other factors such as the presence or absence of a dissertation.
There is one other type of situation which leads to a British Bachelor standard comparability statement. It lies in those national education systems, typically in countries with close historical ties to the UK, which have retained a clear distinction between the Ordinary and Honours degrees, but where the Ordinary degree is by far the more common.
In these cases, learning outcomes of Ordinary degree programmes can be comparable to British Honours level. However, with these national systems, it is hard to justify a UK Honours comparability for Ordinary degrees, because of the existence of the higher Honours award in-country.
Again, in individual cases, transcripts would have to be examined, and a view taken on the particular course undertaken by the applicant, to decide if it is closer to Ordinary or Honours level.
In all of the above situations, the key point is that the British Bachelor standard comparability relates to the national education system rather than an individual qualification or individual person holding that qualification.
Ultimately, for these national systems, it would be misleading to provide a general Honours level comparability statement when that standard cannot be universally guaranteed across all that country’s degree courses.
In individual cases, a British Bachelor standard comparability should not be regarded as saying that an individual’s degree from that country is below UK Honours comparability. And it should not necessarily exclude an individual from being considered for UK postgraduate study.
If your organisation is a member of UK NARIC, then you might be able to use our Member Enquiry service if you are having trouble evaluating a particular qualification. For more information on this, UK NARIC members can contact their Account Manager.