Guide to undergraduate study

Learn to think independently, to question assumptions and get ready to explore the world around you. At Sussex, the latest research – on topics ranging from corruption to dark energy – informs our teaching.

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What is an undergraduate degree?

Undergraduate courses are usually the first degree you study, for example a BA or BSc.

If you don’t have the qualifications to study an undergraduate degree, a Foundation Year helps prepare you for Year 1 of your chosen course.

Undergraduate degree length

The duration of an undergraduate degree is usually three years. If you choose to apply for a placement year or to study abroad, or to go on to an integrated Masters year, it could last four or five years.

Types of undergraduate degree

Single honours

With a single-honours course, you focus in depth on your core subject.

Joint honours

If you want to study more than one subject in depth, you can explore exciting combinations of subjects with a joint-honours course, each taking up 50% of your time. 

What you learn in one subject complements and enhances what you learn in the other.


You can study in depth in a core area (your major subject: taking up 75% of your time), while also exploring an additional area (your minor subject: taking up 25% of your time) with a major/minor course.

Structure of an undergraduate degree

At Sussex, the academic year starts in September. There are three terms in each academic year: autumn, spring and summer.

In each term, you’ll take modules. A module may consist, for example, of a mix of lectures, a seminar or laboratory sessions. You’ll have a timetable with the modules for each week of your course.

Some modules are core, which means all students on the course take them. Others are options, which means you can choose the topics that interest you most.

For courses starting in 2018, most of our single-honours courses also offer:

  • electives – modules from a subject area that’s different to your core course. They enable you to enrich your degree by spending time in your first two years exploring different disciplines.
  • pathways – a combination of electives from a single subject area that is distinct from your main subject. You can choose to take a pathway for up to three years alongside your main subject.

Enhancing your course

At Sussex, you can enrich your course and broaden your horizons by applying for a placement, applying to study abroad, or by learning a language.


A placement is a way to develop your skills and gain invaluable experience, so that when you leave Sussex to find a job you already have a foot on the career ladder.

You can choose to apply for:

  • a professional placement
  • a research placement, offered to high-performing students
  • an integrated placement that is a requirement for the course.

Study abroad

Studying abroad is a great way to explore the world, meet new people and have the kind of experience you will never forget. It will also give you an edge when it comes to a career.

Employers value graduates who have negotiated their way in the world, experienced different cultures and developed an international perspective. 

Changes to your course, such as adding a placement or study abroad year, could have an impact on your Tier 4 visa. You can find out how any changes could affect you or email


Studying a language can help you develop key skills in communication, organisation and cultural awareness – skills that are highly valued by employers.

You may be able to study the following languages at the Sussex Centre for Language Studies:

  • Arabic
  • British Sign Language
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Spanish.


To successfully complete a three-year undergraduate course, for example, you’ll need 360 credits, 120 per year of study.

Each module carries 15 or 30 credits, which you gain when successfully passing your assessments. Find out more about our undergraduate degrees.

Integrated Masters year

Many undergraduate courses include an extra research-focused year, where you work towards your integrated Masters degree.

An integrated Masters course is the easiest way to fund postgraduate study. You can apply for a student loan to guarantee you’ll be covered for all years of your degree.

If you start your studies on a standard undergraduate degree, you’ll have the option – depending on available places on the course and how well you’re doing academically – to transfer to an integrated Masters.

The award you’ll graduate with depends on your subject area – integrated Masters awards include MSci, MEng, MPhys and MComp.

Some of our integrated Masters courses also offer you the opportunity to gain Chartered status in your professional field when you graduate.

Teaching methods

Teaching at university is different from school or college, and you’ll need to be increasingly independent in your work.

Our teaching methos can include:

  • lectures –  where a whole group is taught together. You’ll be expected to build on the information you gain from your lectures through your independent study
  • seminars  –  you, your tutor and a small group of students discuss ideas and consider a topic in depth
  • tutorials  –  you'll ask questions, check your understanding and discuss assignments, either individually with your tutor or in a small group
  • laboratory and practical workshops – you test concepts and methods introduced in lectures and tutorials
  • group work – you collaborate with other students on a project, so that you learn to work as part of a team
  • independent study – you explore topics in greater depth, developing your own opinions on problems, their causes and solutions.

Find out more about how you’ll learn on your undergraduate course.

Assessment methods

You’re assessed using methods including:

  • exams – this could include unseen, seen, oral and computer-based exams
  • coursework – this could include essays, reports, portfolios, presentations, professional logs and take-away papers
  • practical – this could include portfolios, presentations, observations and practical assessments
  • group work – this could include group presentations and group written submissions
  • written assessment – this could include essays, dissertations, reports and projects.

Find out more about assessment on your undergraduate courses.

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