Academic Development and Quality Enhancement

Sussex Choice

Sussex Choice is the term used by the University to communicate to prospective undergraduates how they can personalise the structure and content of their University of Sussex degree. The five elements of Sussex Choice are:

  • Electives
  • Pathways
  • Placements
  • Study Abroad
  • Year in Specialist Subject

Further details regarding each element are presented in the Frequently Asked Questions section below.

The Pathways for Academic Year 2017-18 document shows a list of pathways that have been approved for the 2017/18 Academic Year. An indicative list of the pathways that will be available in the next academic year can be found in the following document: Provisional list of Pathways for AY2018-19.

A list of excluded combinations of single honours courses and pathways can be found in the following document: List of Excluded Combinations of Courses and Pathways.

University staff who wish to propose a new pathway should refer to ADQE's New Course and Pathway Approval pages

A) Overview

1. What is Sussex Choice?

Sussex Choice is the term used by the University to communicate to prospective undergraduates how they can personalise the structure and content of their University of Sussex degree. The broad rationale for Sussex Choice is to provide flexibility in the range of subjects students may study whilst ensuring that the academic integrity of the core discipline remains secure. Broadening student choice enriches the student learning experience and enhances employability, enabling Sussex graduates to achieve their academic and career aims.

The Sussex Choice suite of options is explicitly designed to facilitate student aspirations and to support the creation of an innovative and distinctive curriculum. The design of each element is governed by the University of Sussex Academic Framework, based on UK HE quality standards.

2. What is the Academic Framework?

The University of Sussex Academic Framework sets out the University’s criteria and rules for curriculum design, credit, level, qualifications and award titles. The Academic Framework is based on UK HE quality standards and aligned to guidance from the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA).

The implementation of the Academic Framework is managed by the Academic Development and Quality Enhancement Office, Academic Registry, under the ultimate authority of the University Teaching and Learning Committee on behalf of Senate. 

 B) Electives

3. What are Electives?

Electives are modules which allow single honours students to study a subject outside of their main discipline within and beyond their home School. These modules may be at Level 3, 4 or 5 of the Academic Framework and will always have a credit rating of 15 credit points per module. A distinguishing feature of Year 1 Electives is that they are timetabled in the elective timetable, a subsection of the main timetable which has been created to minimise teaching timetable clashes for new students who make their choices after registration. Year 2 Electives may also be timetabled within the elective timetable but can also be timetabled in the usual manner as part of the annual cycle.

Electives are different from Option modules; the latter are selected by students on both single and joint honours awards from a group of modules linked to a specific degree course. Options are normally delivered within a single School.

4. Which students can take an Elective?

Electives are available to all students on single honours courses, with the following exceptions:

  • Where curriculum content requirements for the core discipline mean that it is not possible to make space for an Elective within the overall diet of 120 credits per year. This typically applies where there are professional body requirements, for example in Law or in some Science subjects.
  • Major/minor degrees already utilise Electives to form the minor component of their degree in Years 1 and 2.

Joint honours students are not able to take Electives owing to insufficient capacity within the overall diet of 120 credits per year for the core curriculum requirements of the two joint disciplines to be delivered. In addition, by selecting a joint honours degree, students have already exercised choice about the content and structure of their degree.

5. How do students find out about what Electives are available?

All Electives are available for all single honours courses approved by the School for inclusion in the scheme. Electives are listed on the central course database and viewable to applicants and students in the online prospectus.

Where a new course is approved for advertising but has not yet been validated, module information – including information about Electives - is not published until after validation.

Once new single honours students are registered, they are guided and prompted by the online system to choose from a list of available Elective modules (see question 7).

6. Where can students get advice about the Electives available to them?

School Offices can provide advice to students about eligibility for Electives, particularly where professional body requirements preclude participation in Elective modules.

Academic advisors will be able to guide students in making decisions about which Electives are right for them from an academic perspective.

7. What are the timescales and processes for selection of Electives by students?

The process for students to choose Electives is driven by the timetabling system, which replaces previous manual processes. New students select their modules including Electives online as part of online registration. The system for selecting modules opens for continuing students each April.

The system guides and prompts students in making their selections. Schools also communicate with students in advance of the online system becoming available. Schools chase students who are slow to respond. Schools also monitor take up on a daily basis as it underpins workload management for the coming academic session.

New students have three weeks to finalise decisions. Elective choices cannot normally be changed after the deadline has passed, although some adjustments may be permitted at School level where there are spaces available.

8. How are Electives reflected in degree titles for graduating students?

Electives are only reflected in the degree title if they are taken as part of a Pathway (see question 15) or as part of minor component in a major/minor degree.

  C) Pathways

9. What is a Pathway?

A Pathway is an approved, academically-coherent combination of modules, which students study across either the first two years (60 credits) of their degree or across all three years (90 credits). The rationale for Pathways is to enable students to study a second subject outside of their main discipline in a structured manner.

10. What types of Pathway are there?

There are several types of Pathway as follows:

60 credit Pathway

Alongside their main subject, students study a Pathway consisting of 60 credits overall; 30 credits are studied in both the first and second stages of the degree.

90 credit / Minor Pathway

Alongside their main subject, students study a Pathway consisting of 90 credits, with 30 credits studied at each stage.

In this model, the main element of the degree consists of 270 credits with a minimum of 90 credits at level 6. The 90 credit or 'Minor' component consists of a coherent element of study to the value of 90 credits, breaking down into 30 credits of study per year up to level 6. 30 credits of the minor component must be taken at level 6.

Language pathway

The Language Pathway is a variant of the 60 credit Pathway.The Academic Framework permits the delivery of two parallel Language Pathways, namely intermediate (30 credits each at level 3 & 4) and advanced (30 credits each at level 4 & 5). This arrangement recognises the range of abilities of students when studying a new language.

Students on a language pathway may apply to vary their curriculum so as to continue their intermediate or advanced studies into a final stage (30 credits each at level 5 & 6). This results in a 90 credit Language Pathway, which is then reflected in the exit award as the minor component of a major/minor degree.

 In addition, 60 credit pathways can be further categorised as either type 1 or type 2.

Type 1                  

60 credit (4x15) coherent pathway open to all students on courses where pathways are possible (see question 11 below)

Type 2

60 credit (4x15) coherent pathway with approved pre-requisites and/or exclusions as determined by the host School. This type should be employed where the School is targeting a particular cohort by course of study.

11. Which students can take a Pathway?

Pathways are available to all students on single honours courses, with the following exceptions:

  • Where curriculum content requirements for the main discipline mean that it is not possible to make space for an elective within the overall diet of 120 credits per year. This typically applies where there are professional body requirements, for example in Law and Science subjects.
  • Major/minor degrees already utilise Pathways to form the minor component of their degree.
  • Pathways will not be available to students where the academic discipline overlaps with their major subject area. For example, it would be absurd for a BA Philosophy students to take the Philosophy Pathway. This would almost certainly lead to a replication of their major studies and would defeat the object of taking a Pathway in the first place. A list of excluded combinations can be found at the top of this webpage.

Joint honours students cannot take Pathways because this would not leave sufficient capacity within the overall diet of 120 credits per year for the core curriculum requirements of the two joint disciplines to be delivered. In addition, by selecting a joint honours degree, students have already chosen an interdisciplinary route.

12. How do students find out what Pathways are available?

A full list of Pathways is published for internal use on the Academic Development and Quality Enhancement Office website. Information on the available Pathways is accessible to applicants from the online undergraduate prospectus.

In order to determine whether a particular Pathway is compatible with a particular course, students will need to be mindful of the exceptions above and take advice from their School Office.

Once students are registered, they are guided and prompted by the online system to choose from a list of available Elective modules (see question 14). Those modules which are part of a Pathway are indicated as such and details of other modules in the Pathway can be accessed.

13. Where can students get advice about the Pathways available to them?

School Offices can provide advice to students about eligibility for taking a Pathway, particularly where professional body requirements preclude this.

Academic advisors will be able to guide students in making decisions about which Pathway is right for them from an academic perspective.

14. What are the timescales and processes for selection of Pathways by students?

The process for students to choose Electives to form their chosen Pathway is driven by the timetabling system, which replaces previous manual processes. New students select their modules including Electives online as part of online registration. The system for selecting modules opens for continuing students each April.

The system guides and prompts students in making their decisions. Schools also communicate with students in advance of the online system becoming available. Schools chase students who are slow to respond and monitor take up on a daily basis as it underpins workload management for the coming academic session.

New students have three weeks to finalise decisions. Elective choices cannot normally be changed after the deadline has passed, although some adjustments may be permitted at School level where there are spaces available.

Students cannot begin a Pathway in year 2, only in year 1.

15. How are Pathways reflected in degree titles for graduating students?

Pathways are reflected in the degree title as follows:

Successful completion of a 60 credit Pathway

Award title will use the formula: ‘x with (pathway name) studies’

E.g. BA (Hons) History with Education Studies

Successful completion of a 90 credit Pathway

Award title will use the formula: ‘x with (pathway name)’

E.g. BA (Hons) History with Education

The Subject title for a 90 credit pathway will be determined by the School, within the bounds of the Academic Framework and expected normal practice, as well as within the discipline.

Language Pathways

The award certificate shall be recorded as “x with proficiency in ‘language’ (intermediate)” where the language has been taken at levels 3 and 4 and “x with proficiency in ‘language’ (advanced)” where the language has been taken at levels 4 and 5. The allocation to intermediate or advanced level is determined following assessment of the student by Sussex Centre for Language Studies (SCLS).

  D) Study Abroad

16. What is Study Abroad?

The Academic Framework includes three main categories for Study Abroad.

Voluntary Study Abroad Year

Students may incorporate a voluntary year abroad into an existing 3/4 stage course (Bachelors or Integrated Masters Degree respectively).

This will be an additional year of study equivalent to 120 credits leading to a course duration of 4/5 stages respectively.

The year abroad is normally taken between the second and third stages of study.

Integrated Study Year Abroad

Some courses (American Studies and Languages) have an integrated Study Abroad Year embedded into a 4 stage course structure. A Study Abroad Year integrated into the course structure requires that the University guarantees all students access to a Study Abroad Year. Students cannot normally undertake both a Study Abroad and a Placement Year (regardless of whether the Study Abroad year is integrated into a 4 stage course or voluntary).

Study Abroad Term

Incorporated within a 3 or 4 stage (360/480 credit) degree course to broaden student learning. Permissible in Term 1 and Term 2 as long as the curriculum has been explicitly approved to enable this either at School level or as an approved route for an individual. The one term placement/study abroad requires approval and is not open to all students.

17. Which students can study abroad?

All students on a 3 stage undergraduate or 4 stage integrated Masters course can apply to undertake a Voluntary Study Abroad Year, with the exception of those whose course already includes an Integrated Study Abroad Year.

Students can also apply to spend a term abroad, providing that the curriculum has been approved to enable this, either for all students on a particular course, or by approval of a variation for an individual student.

18. How do students find out about Study Abroad options and what are the timescales involved?

A Voluntary Study Abroad Year is not guaranteed but the University will support students via the Sussex Abroad Office in identifying/gaining access to a Study Abroad Year. Students wishing to access a Voluntary Study Abroad Year once on a course shall register with the Sussex Abroad Office normally by Term 2 of Stage 1.

19. How is Study Abroad reflected in degree titles for graduating students?

When taken and passed the Voluntary/Integrated Study Abroad Year shall be recognised on the degree certificate in the format – Degree title (with Study Abroad Year).

Successful completion of a Study Abroad Term will be noted on the students’ transcript, but not included in the degree title.

   E) Placements

20. What Placement options does the University offer for students?

Placement Year (voluntary)            

Students may incorporate a Voluntary Placement Year into an existing 3/4 stage course (Bachelors or Integrated Masters Degree respectively).

This will be an additional year of study equivalent to 120 credits leading to a course duration of 4/5 stages respectively.

Placement Term

Incorporated within a 3 or 4 stage (360/480 credit) degree course to broaden student learning. Permissible in Term 1 and Term 2 as long as the curriculum has been explicitly approved to enable this either at School level or as an approved route for an individual. The one term placement/study abroad requires approval and is not open to all students.

21. How can students find out about Placement opportunities and how is the process managed?

A Voluntary Placement Year is not guaranteed but the University will support students via the Placement Preparation Programme in identifying / gaining access to a Placement Year.

For further information see the placements information on the Careers and Employability Centre's website.

22. How are Placements reflected in degree titles for graduating students?

When taken and passed the Placement Year shall be recognised on the degree certificate in the format – Degree title (with Professional Placement Year).

Successful completion of a Placement Term will be noted on the students’ transcript, but not included in the degree title.

 F) Year in Specialist Subject

23. What is a Year in Specialist Subject?

A Year in Specialist Subject is a one year course of study in a named subject. The Year in Specialist Subject allows students undertake a year’s study of a specialist subject complementary to their primary course, with the aim of enhancing their career options. The Year in Specialist Subject is a standalone programme of study. It is assessed on a 0-100 scale as appropriate to the individual modules. Credits gained during the year will not contribute towards the degree classification. 

24. Which students can take a Year in Specialist Subject?

The Year in Specialist Subject is available to students on specifically designated three and four year undergraduate degree courses (single honours, joint honours, major/minor, or integrated master’s degrees). Students may apply for admission to the Year in Specialist Subject that has been designated as academically appropriate to their main course. The admissions requirements for the Year in Specialist Subject are a 50% pass overall in year 2 of the undergraduate degree, with no failed credit. Students taking a placement year or study abroad year will not be eligible for admission.

25. How is the Year in Specialist Subject reflected in degree titles for graduating students?

Students who successfully complete the Year in Specialist Subject will have their achievement recognised on their award certificate by the addition of the words: ‘with a Year in <subject>’. These words will not appear on the award certificate if the required number of credits is not achieved. Any credit awarded will however be recorded on the student transcript.

For further information on the first Year in Specialist Subject to be offered by the University, please see:

http://www.sussex.ac.uk/informatics/ugstudy/year-in-computing

 G) Examination and assessment

26. What happens when students fail Electives, Pathways, Study Abroad or Placements?

All elements of Sussex Choice are subject to the regulations set out in the Examination and Assessment Regulations Handbook. Where students fail, opportunities to retrieve the failure will be available. Individual students will be guided by Schools and Academic Advisors in relation to their options following progression and award boards.

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