3.  Programme Structure and Design

The current programmes approved by Senate, governed by the regulations in this section, are provided at www.bristol.ac.uk/academic-quality/assessment/annex/annex-programmelist.html.

Additionally, the regulations for the specific programmes: MBChB, BDS, BVSc, Gateway to Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Science, Diploma in Dental Hygiene, Diploma in Dental Therapy, the International Foundation Programme, Postgraduate Certificate in Education, Graduate Diploma, MSc in Social Work and MSc in Veterinary Sciences and Postgraduate Diploma in Veterinary Clinical Practice and the Pre-Sessional Language Courses are available at Annex 2.

The Diploma in Dental Hygiene, which is governed by specific regulations, is subject to these Regulations except where the specific regulations in Annex 2 indicate otherwise.

The development of taught programmes across the University are underpinned by the expectations of the Quality Assurance Agency’s (QAA) UK Quality Code.

3.1    Each degree programme is the responsibility of the relevant faculty, subject to approval by Senate. Faculty Boards shall determine the programmes to be offered for each degree, diploma or certificate within the faculty and the units to be taken within each programme.

3.2    Every degree programme must be justified on academic grounds and the level of demand for them must be sufficient to merit the use of the resources required for delivery.

3.3    Faculties must adhere to the established procedures for the approval of named degree programmes.

3.4    Control over entry to any programme or unit rests with faculties (programmes) and schools (units). This includes the evaluation and acceptance of students transferring from other institutions or internally within the University.

3.5    All new and existing undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes must be fully modular in structure, with the exception of the MB,ChB, BDS and BVSc programmes and Gateway variants.

3.6    Faculties and schools must specify the constituent units for all existing and any new programmes in the programme specification, as well as the programme aims, intended learning outcomes, any opportunities for conditional progression and the status of those units within its structure, including whether they are ‘must-pass’. The programme specification is also the definitive record for any programme-level rules on the award of credit, student progression and qualifying for the intended or exit award.

3.7    Subject to the approval of Faculty Boards and Senate, schools shall determine: (i) the content and duration of each unit and the criteria for its satisfactory completion; (ii) the value in terms of credit points and level to be assigned to each unit; and (iii) the pre-requisites and co-requisites associated with each unit.

3.8    Faculties and schools whose programmes or units are either validated by professional bodies or which are required to adhere to curricular content specified by professional bodies will establish with those organisations what constitutes an acceptable curricular structure.

3.9    Where distance learning is required or offered for part of, or whole of, a programme, faculties and schools must consider and fulfil the principles for the design and delivery of programmes by distance learning.

Unit sizes and structure of the teaching year

3.10   The University's standard unit sizes are 10, 20, 30, 40 and 60 credit points. A single 120 credit point undergraduate unit which encompasses a full academic year where the student is studying abroad or in industry is also permitted.

3.11   In postgraduate taught programmes, units of more than 60 credit points are permitted to accommodate projects or dissertations.

3.12   Faculties and schools must ensure that programmes and units conform to the structure of the academic year as laid out by Senate (see: www.bristol.ac.uk/academicregistry/office/policies/say). 

Units should not span more than one academic year. A unit may only be scheduled to run outside of the agreed structure where there are good pedagogic reasons so to do when approved by the University Education Committee.

Levels of study - programmes

3.13   The University of Bristol, in accordance with Ordinance 19 and the national Qualifications Framework, awards the following taught academic qualifications:

3.14   The University also provides a number of programmes that prepare students for study at degree level:

3.15   A student who has completed the preliminary or foundation year by passing all the units but who does not proceed onto a University of Bristol programme will receive a University certificate, as specified in the relevant regulations.

Levels of study - units

3.16   The following levels of credit are used by the University, in accordance with the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree Awarding Bodies:

Units may be provided that are equivalent to level 3, as established in the UK Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), where they feature in preliminary year or foundation year programmes.


3.17   The University’s credit framework, which summarises the amount and level of credit required to receive a University award, is reproduced on the following page.

3.18   The amount and level of credit specified in the tables should be regarded as the minimum. If a school wishes to diverge from these amounts, the faculty must seek University level approval, through the University Education Committee.

3.19      The University’s Credit Framework:

QualificationFHEQ LevelTotal credits requiredMinimum credits required at the highest level*Equivalent ECTS creditsAdditional credit requirements
Taught Masters degree  7 At least 180 150 The minimum requirement is 60, however, a range of 90-120 is more typical.  
Integrated Masters degree 7 At least 480 120   Where the programme includes a year away from the University: at least 60 credit points at level 6 in the year spent away from the University and at least 60 credit points at level 7 in the final year**
Postgraduate Diploma 7 At least 120 90   Remaining credits to be at level 4 or higher
Postgraduate Certificate (including the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)) 7 At least 60 40    
Bachelors degree with honours 6 At least 360 90 180-240 Remaining credits to include at least 100 at level 5 or above
Bachelors degree (Ordinary degree) 6 At least 300 60    
Professional Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) 6 At least 60 40    
Graduate Diploma 6 At least 80 80    
Graduate Certificate 6 At least 40 40    
Foundation Degree 5 At least 240 90    
Diploma of Higher Education in (Faculty name) (Subject) 5 At least 240 90 Approx. 120

Remaining credits at level 4 or above. 

Certificate of Higher Education in (Faculty name) (Subject) 4 At least 120 120    

* The highest level is the level of the qualification

** Applies to new registrations from the 2017/18 academic year


1       This table should be read in conjunction with the Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Awarding Bodies. The University’s credit framework will apply in cases where the credit requirement is higher than that stated in the national credit framework.

2       The MB,ChB (Medicine), BDS (Dentistry), BVSc (Veterinary Science) and Gateway undergraduate programmes are not included in the University's modular structure.

3       At the discretion of the faculty joint honours degrees may vary from the minimum of 90 credits at level 6 because of the need for more flexible structures in joint programmes.

4       Individual students can take units at a higher level than normally specified during their programme, e.g. a level 7 unit might be substituted for a level 6 unit, or a level 6 unit might replace one at level 5.

5       The University’s qualifications relate to the Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area (FQ-EHEA) as follows:

Doctoral degrees                                    Third Cycle Qualifications (Not typically credit rated)

Masters degrees                                     Second Cycle Qualifications (Min. 60 ECTS credits, however a range of 90-120 ECTS credits is typical)

Integrated Masters degrees                     Second Cycle Qualifications (As above)

Bachelors degrees with Honours              First Cycle Qualifications (180-240 ECTS credits)        

Foundation degrees                                Short Cycle Qualifications (120 ECTS credits)

Diplomas of Higher Education                  As above

Credit points

3.20      In assigning credit points to units, faculties and schools are required to use total student input per normal full-time year of study as a measure. An average of 40 hours per week of total student input in teaching time is suggested as an appropriate measure of the time an average student will need to spend to be able to complete the assessment for a programme successfully. One credit point represents approximately 10 notional hours of student input.

3.21      The attainment of additional credit points in any year of study cannot be carried forward in such a way as to reduce the volume of credit that must be taken in any succeeding year, or to accelerate a student's progress towards any award.     

3.22      A unit shared by students studying on more than one programme must always be allocated the same credit points.

3.23      Credit points may be used once only and may not be used towards two or more awards of this University or of another institution and the University, with the exceptions as specified in clauses 22.9 (undergraduate) and 33.5 (taught postgraduate).

3.24      It is the responsibility of the relevant Faculty Board of Examiners to determine whether a student has satisfied the criteria for the award of credit points.

Shared teaching between undergraduates and postgraduates

3.25      Undergraduate and taught postgraduate students may be taught together. If undergraduate and taught postgraduate students undertake the same unit, with the same learning outcomes and assessment, the credit awarded will be at the pre-defined level of the unit. If the learning outcomes and assessment differ for the undergraduate and postgraduate students then they are deemed to be undertaking different units; such units must have been previously approved at the different levels.