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Difference between honours vs non-honours degree
Published:  Nov 11, 2022 9:01 AM
Updated: 1:01 AM

When researching higher education courses, you’ve most probably seen degrees labelled as bachelor’s degrees and others as honours degrees. However, perhaps you are not entirely sure what this implies or the distinction between them.

You could also be pondering if they significantly affect job prospects. What’s more, is it worth the additional time, cost, and hard work?

This article addresses the differences between an honours degree and a non-honours degree to help you make a well-informed decision.

Above image by Dirk Wouters from Pixabay

What is an honours degree?

Before discussing what an honours degree implies, it is essential to understand that it may signify different things depending on the nation you are studying in. However, it does have a universally applicable fundamental definition.

A bachelor’s degree with honours is intended to be of a better calibre than a regular bachelor’s degree. The curriculum for these degrees calls for greater performance while still in the undergraduate stage. Consequently, it means earning an honours degree requires more effort and dedication. The degree serves as proof of outstanding accomplishment and study at the undergraduate level.

Types of honours degrees

The significant part about acquiring an honours degree is that there are multiple ways to do it based on individual goals and preferred study methods.

1. Single Honours Degree

Upon completion of undergraduate studies, students may pursue a stand-alone honours degree, which is an extra course. For example, selecting one subject from the undergraduate studies to major in. Alternatively, students can pick a course that combines three topics into a single honours degree, such as Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. In contrast to integrated or embedded honours, where honours requirements are completed throughout the course of studies, this variety needs an additional year of study.

2. Joint/Combined Honours Degree

Students who pursue a joint or combined honours degree can study several subjects at the undergraduate level independently. This degree is suitable for those who desire the option of having two or even three subject specialisations in addition to their conventional undergraduate degree.

This is how it works: you select different study modules for each subject, and a different department offers each one within the university. Therefore, 50% of the final grade would be determined by each topic, and in the case of three subjects, each would make up a third of the final grade.

3. A Degree with an Honours Project

This degree is probably the most straightforward option for obtaining an honours degree. An honours degree is earned by completing a typical three-year degree with the addition of a project or dissertation in the final semester of study. As a result, this degree has a credit value of 360 compared to a conventional bachelor’s degree’s credit value of 300.  

4. Double honours degree

It is possible to finish with double honours in specific circumstances.

Double honours imply finishing two distinct honours research papers in different academic areas. Consequently, you will be awarded two honours degrees. Typically, this adds another year to the study period and is sometimes challenging to complete.

5. A four-year degree with honours

This undergraduate course allows students to delve deeper into their area of specialisation because the academic level rises yearly. Although it is a challenging course, it equips one with additional research skills, which may prove beneficial when pursuing a PhD.

Additionally, students will acquire skills that will come in handy in the workplace, like planning work to accomplish a challenging objective, conducting independent research, and successful communication. Furthermore, a four-year degree with honours offers a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

Honours degree vs bachelor’s degree

The main distinction between an honours degree and a bachelor’s degree is the academic level, with honours degrees having a higher academic standard.

Because the level of study required for an honours degree is higher and more rigorous overall, students will have a deeper understanding of the subjects they are studying. Thus, non-honours degrees are significantly simpler to acquire. 

Whether you decide to finish honours after your undergraduate studies or incorporate it within, an honours degree involves more exams and prerequisites than a non-honours degree.

Besides this, because an honours degree curriculum is distinctive and integrated, it allows you to specialise in one or two disciplines. As a result, it would be your passport to earning a doctorate or a master’s by research.

Why study honours?

An honours degree certainly sounds like an awful lot of effort, but its scope is vast. So let’s examine a few benefits of pursuing an honours degree. 

  1. Your work will be permanently preserved in the university library as a resource for aspiring students and researchers, giving you a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

  2. You will acquire incredible research abilities, enabling entrance to the field of research.

  3. The option to continue your education at any stage remains open permanently after completing an honours degree.

  4. You acquire skills like planning and scheduling to achieve specific goals.

  5. Networking experiences with subject-matter experts are added benefits. 

  6. Honours degree holders have a significant advantage over other applicants regarding job opportunities.

How to get an honours degree?

The definition of “honours” and how you get it depends on the country and the university you are enrolled in.

Some nations offer honours degrees as a distinct year of study, whilst others provide honours as an embedded degree, meaning they last the same time as a conventional bachelor’s degree.

Depending on a student’s level of success, several nations provide undergraduate degrees with honours. These nations include:

  • Malaysia

  • Hong Kong

  • Northern Ireland 

  • Wales

  • England

  • Canada

A year-long independent study is required for honours degrees in the following nations:

  • United States of America

  • Australia

  • New Zealand

  • Scotland

  • South Africa

In Malaysia, universities provide a variety of degrees based on many educational systems throughout the world (such as in Australia, the UK, the USA, etc.).

Thus, institutions can be categorised into two divisions — universities that solely give honours degrees and universities that offer both honours and non-honours degrees.

1. Universities that solely offer honours degrees

Several universities in Malaysia fit into this category. You can spot them with the term “Honours” or “Hons” next to their degrees.

This degree implies that students will always graduate from institutions with honours unless their marks are below the requirements.

These institutions give degrees in the British pattern of:

  • “First Class Honours,” 

  • “Upper Second Class Honours,” 

  • “Lower Second Class Honours,” 

  • “Third Class Honours.” 

Here, “First Class Honours” signifies a better level of academic performance.

2. Universities that grant degrees in both honours and non-honours

For institutions included in this group, an honours degree means an additional year in school after completing the undergraduate degree to finish a significant research project and produce an outstanding research thesis.

Outstanding educational performance is typically required, especially in the third year of undergraduate studies, to be admitted to this 1-year honours course.

In this case, it’s crucial to remember that earning an honours degree would take more effort and money.

In Malaysia, only Australian colleges with Malaysian branch campuses offer these degrees.

How is an honours degree graded?

The honours classification would interest students who would like to enrol for the honours embedded programme. The general categorisation and grade for the honours degree in Malaysia are listed below. However, it is only a guideline; grading may differ from university to university.

  • First-class Honours (80% and above)

  • Upper Second-Class Honours (60–70%)

  • Lower Second-Class Honours (50–60%)

  • Third Class Honours (40-50%)

  • Pass degree (below 40%)

  • Fail (no degree is awarded)

Does an honours degree make a difference?

Well, the answer to this depends on you. It all simply boils down to your aspirations and ambitions. A degree with honours may be ideal for you if you’re the kind of person who rises to the occasion.

On the other hand, a standard bachelor’s degree can be the best option if you want to prioritise part-time employment or other demanding activities while studying.


Your decision-making process just got easier now that you’ve clearly understood the distinction between honours and non-honours degree programmes.

It would be wise to explore a few options and take some time to consider all of the possibilities before making any decisions about your academic endeavours.

There are many different study options available at UOW Malaysia KDU, and one of them may turn out to be your ideal degree programme.

Check out the wide range of Bachelor’s degree programmes at the prestigious UOW Malaysia KDU.

This content is provided by UOW Malaysia KDU.

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