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Honours Year Programs Policy

N.B. All new courses/major amendments to courses must comply with the Course Design Policy from July 2011.
The Honours Year Programs Policy only applies to existing courses and will be rescinded in 2015.

Honours programs should contain a mix of advanced theory, research training and research. No overall guidelines are appropriate, but each discipline should establish appropriate upper and lower boundaries for the proportion allocated to a specific research project.

The academic staff involved in supervising honours candidates should be active researchers. Where appropriate, co-supervision by qualified non-academics, for example from industry, should be encouraged.

Programs should include components involving the development of both written and oral communication skills. As part of this development, students should be required to provide a seminar on their thesis and/or to engage in an oral defence of their work.

The requirement for admission to the Honours year program is high achievement in a relevant three-year bachelor degree. A minimum credit average is required, or higher if set by the faculty, and usually involves direct continuation of the "pass" level three-year bachelor degree.

Requirements for entry into honours programs should be determined by the Deans of each faculty and published in handbooks. The circumstances in which such requirements may be waived or varied should also be clearly defined.

Faculties/Departments should provide regular and systematic feedback to students on all elements of their performance in the honours year as it proceeds.

Faculties/Departments should provide a formal organisational and administrative structure for the Honours program involving either a co-ordinator or an Honours Course Committee charged with such matters as:

  1. scrutinising thesis proposals; 
  2. making recommendations on course proposals; 
  3. monitoring the structure and coherence of the Honours course offerings; 
  4. monitoring the effectiveness of the supervision provided; 
  5. monitoring assessment procedures; 
  6. counselling students and mediating disputes on an informal basis.

The requirement of awarding numerical marks in addition to the grades awarded for the honours program and its components, approved by Council 8/95, should be implemented for all courses and their component units from the commencement of 2002.

For honours program components:

  • where there are significant and distinct components of the program, with a start and finish date, these should receive a separate assessment including both a mark and grade. 
  • the individual components within an honours program should be identified as separate subjects/units and allocated points, in multiples of six, where possible and appropriate. (Note: In some instances, where required for professional or other reasons, a three point unit would be an acceptable component of an honours program that would allow a smaller unit to have a result recorded.) 
  • variations are acceptable if justified on academic grounds. (Note: In accordance with the devolution of the course approval process, faculties would be responsible for the approval of variations that are justified on academic grounds.)

The division of an existing honours program into appropriate identifiable units should be implemented no later than the commencement of 2003.

Conferring Both Pass and Honours Degrees

A person who has qualified for both the pass degree and the fourth year honours bachelor degree and who wishes to graduate with both degrees may not be awarded both degrees on the same day.


The objective of this policy is to provide consistency in fourth year honours programs throughout the university while allowing appropriate flexibility for faculties to develop policies and procedures relevant to their own needs.


This policy applies to all fourth year honours bachelor programs. This policy does not apply to degrees awarded 'with honours' that do not involve an additional year and do not represent a separate honours program.

In several faculties, students are required to complete special units or a research project if they wish to qualify for an honours degree, but this does not involve an additional year and does not represent a separate honours program. This degree is awarded 'with honours'. These guidelines are not designed for these types of courses. In faculties where these awards are offered, the faculty should consider developing a similar set of guidelines, relevant to their own programs, using these as a basis.

Related Documents

Related Legislation

Responsibilities for Implementation

  • University wide - Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) 
  • Faculty wide - Deans, Associate Deans (Teaching), Heads of Department/Schools

Review Schedule

Academic Board will consider this policy for review three years after approval, or earlier if required.


Approved by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Planning) on 2 December 2002

Change to "Responsibilities for Implementation" made by Education Committee Meeting 6/2005, 26 October 2005.