Open units

What are units?

Units are the building blocks for all taught courses. A unit is part of a course and has its own learning outcomes, syllabus and assessment scheme. Units are assigned to a level of study and are usually credit bearing. A unit may be mandatory or optional and must be capable of being separately assessed. A unit may consist of one or more elements.

  • Mandatory unit - a core unit on a course which must be studied
  • Optional unit - a unit you choose from a specified list of units available on a particular course
  • Prerequisite unit - a unit you must pass before you can do another, usually more advanced, unit.

The study glossary contains more information on units.

What is an open unit?

An open unit is available to students on some single honours courses. There is a free choice on which open units you can select if it doesn't clash with your core course units. You can select open units in subjects that are not related to your main subject of study. Generally, option units have no pre-requisites.

Open units are designed to allow you to broaden your education outside of your specific subject specialism.

Can you take an open unit?

If the selection of open units is available to you on your course this will be listed in the programme structure for your course and you will receive guidance on the selection process from your school office. The availability of an open unit is not always guaranteed because choices are subject to the number of places and timetabling to fit with your programme.

Levels of study

As a first-year student, you should only opt for Units that are set at level 4 (certificate) as indicated in the unit information.


Open units are taught at university level, and while most do not require any prior knowledge of the subject, some may assume a certain level of previous experience. If you are not sure, please check either the unit information, or with the school offering the unit. It is your responsibility to consider whether you have sufficient knowledge to meet the requirements of the course.


You are expected to take 120 credit points per academic year. Each open unit is made up of either 40, 20 or 10 credits. You must check the number of credits of the open units you select to make sure you meet the 120 credit points required.

For example, if you are eligible to take 40 credits of open units, you can choose two units of 20 credits. In this case, you are encouraged to take one Unit in Teaching Block 1 and the other in Teaching Block 2. Alternatively, you can choose one unit of 40 credits, which will usually run across both terms. 10 credit units must be selected in pairs. If you select a 10 credit unit make sure you select a second 10 credit unit to meet your required total of credits.

Find out what credit points are and what Teaching Blocks are in the study glossary.

Different courses have different numbers of credits available for open units, and some offer open units that spread over two years or two Teaching Blocks. It is important to check the information you’ve been sent by your school; to see how many open unit credit points you are eligible to take, and how these can be spread out over the year for the open units you are interested in.

Allocation of open units

We will try to accommodate your choices, but cannot always allocate you a place on your first choice unit if it is oversubscribed. You can select more units than you need to take, the extra unit/s will become back-up options if your first choice unit/s is oversubscribed.

If you are swapping an optional unit for an open unit and you haven't chosen a back-up, you will revert back to the optional unit if your chosen open unit cannot offer you a place.

If you select an open unit that clashes with other units on your timetable we will not be able to allocate you a place.

Select open units

Learning English and Academic Development (LEAD)

If you are considering applying for an English LEAD open unit, you can view the units and apply online through the Centre for English Language and Development. You will not be able to apply to LEAD units using the online open unit selection used for all other units. You can select a LEAD unit between 14 September and 5 October.

Edit this page