Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-21, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 22 September, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


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Bachelor degree

core definition

A bachelor degree is the first-level higher education award, usually requiring three or four years’ study but more in some medical subjects. 

explanatory context

A bachelor’s degree is the standard graduating qualification in Anglo-Saxon countries and those adopting the Anglo-Saxon system. Hitherto, it has not been the norm in other countries., such as much of Europe, where the master’s degree has been the normal graduating qualification. The Bologna process, though has introduced a two-cycle, bachelors-masters system across the European Higher Education Area. In the UK a bachelor degree typically takes three years of full-time study, whereas in other countries, such as the US, the norm is four years. The Bologna process adopted a 3+2 approach to bachelor and masters (some degrees such as medicine taking longer). The adoption of 3+2 was not well received in some European countries.

analytical review

The Higher Education Authority [Ireland] (HEA, 2004) defines a bachelor’s degree as:

The degree generally awarded after three or four years' study at higher education level. First-degree courses in Architecture, Veterinary Medicine and Dentistry requires five or six years, while Medicine takes six years.


The Common Data Set of U.S. Higher Education Terminology (2010) states:

Bachelor's degree: An award (baccalaureate or equivalent degree, as determined by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education) that normally requires at least four years but not more than five years of full-time equivalent college-level work. This includes ALL bachelor's degrees conferred in a five-year cooperative (work-study plan) program. (A cooperative plan provides for alternate class attendance and employment in business, industry, or government; thus, it allows students to combine actual work experience with their college studies.) Also, it includes bachelor's degrees in which the normal four years of work are completed in three years.


ICN (2003) and NTNC (2002) define a bachelor's degree or baccalaureate as:

the degree of bachelor of arts or bachelor of science, typically requiring 120 hours of specified course work.

Charles Sturt University (2011) states:

Bachelor degree: the award a student gains when they have completed studies in an undergraduate course, which is usually completed in three or four years of full-time study.

Cocke (2011) states :

A bachelor's degree usually is four years in length and requires at least 120 hours completed at accredited four-year institutions. Some bachelor's programs take more or less time, but these are usually professional degrees. Most bachelor's degrees consist of Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), though there are others, such as a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.). Few bachelor's degrees are terminal, though most students do not seek study beyond a bachelor's degree.


The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA, undated) in the UK defines bachelor's degree as:

A course of academic study leading to a qualification usually over a period of three or four full-time academic years that requires a significant amount of independent study to develop a thorough understanding of a subject.

Located at level 6 in The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, at level 6 in the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales and at levels 9-10 in the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (9 for ordinary bachelor's degrees, 10 for bachelor's degrees with honours).

Examples include the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BSc) degrees. To be awarded a bachelor's degree ‘with honours’, a student achieves the learning outcomes of a larger volume of study.

associated issues

related areas

See also


master’s degree

doctoral degree


Charles Sturt University, 2011, Glossary, available at, accessed 20 September 2012, still available 31 December 2016, not found 20 June 2019.

Cocke, A., 2011, The Definition of "Educational Degrees" available at, accessed 20 September 2012, still available 20 June 2019.

Common Data Set of U.S. Higher Education Terminology, 2010, Glossary, available at, updated 10 November 2010, accessed 20 September 2012, page not available 31 December 2016.

Higher Education Authority (HEA) [of Ireland] 2004, Glossary, no longer available, 29 January 2011.

Indiana College Network (ICN), 2007, ‘Glossary', last modified 14 October, 2003 . Address of 'Glossary' at 6 February 2011 is, updated 15 February 2007. Definition unchanged from 2003 version, accessed 20 September 2012, still available 20 June 2019.

Northeast Texas Network Consortium (NTNC), 2002, Distance Learning College Glossary. , accessed 20 September 2012, still available 31 December 2016, not avauilable 20 June 2019..

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), undated, Glossary, available at, accessed 7 January 2017, not available 20 June 2019..

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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