Overlap and Common Examining of Undergraduate and Taught Masters Programmes

contact: Irenie Morley, Academic Programmes and Regulations Manager, Student and Registry Services.


Permissible Degree of Overlap

1. The purpose of each taught Masters degree programme, existing or proposed, must be clearly defined. The definition should make clear such points as the distinction in purpose between degrees entirely for non-specialists and those primarily for applicants with a measure of expertise in the subject, and between four-year undergraduate degrees (MEng and MSci) and Masters programmes in the same subject.

2. The entrance requirements for each taught Masters degree must be clearly specified and must be related to its defined purpose. They should be framed in terms both of acceptable entrance qualifications (including acceptable professional experience/qualifications alternative to the usual second class Honours degree) and of unacceptable entrance qualifications and should be formally approved by the appropriate Faculty Teaching Committee.

3. When professional experience is an acceptable alternative to the Second Class Honours degree specified, Departments must make clear:

  • what type and level of experience is acceptable
  • the minimum length of acceptable experience
  • what alternative qualifications are acceptable.

4. The criterion for defining acceptable qualifications should be the qualifications/experience which a student needs in order to achieve an acceptable result, without undue difficulty, on the programme in question.

5. Unacceptable qualifications in this context are those degree qualifications which, although they might fulfil the general requirement for entry to a taught Masters degree programme, cannot be allowed for the programme in question. They would include such things as a qualification in Computer Science for a programme designed to introduce the subject to those new to it, or an MEng degree from UCL which contained a high proportion of courses also taught in the Master's programme applied for.

6. The criteria for defining unacceptable qualifications are:

  • consideration of the purpose of the degree;
  • the principle that a student should not receive two awards for the same (or substantially the same) work.

7. For new taught Masters degree programmes a definition of purpose and set of agreed entrance requirements must be presented with the programme proposal.

8. For all taught Masters programmes, the defined purpose of the programme will determine the degree of overlap in teaching with the corresponding undergraduate degree programme(s) and the degree of overlap will affect the entrance requirements.

9. Departments designing new programmes should observe the recommendation that Masters programmes should have not more than one third of their components (i.e. one third of their taught components, excluding the dissertation) in common with undergraduate programmes and that there MUST be NO common examining or assessment.

10. In the exceptional cases where the degree of overlap is more than one third of the taught components, excluding the dissertation, the undergraduate degree with which components are shared may not be accepted as an entrance qualification for the Masters. The entrance requirements must make this clear.

11. For existing taught Masters degree programmes with a degree of overlap with undergraduate degree programmes at variance with their defined purpose, steps should be taken to reduce the number of components common with undergraduate degree programmes at the next due date of review or within three years, whichever is the sooner.

Examining of Common Components

12. Components common to undergraduate degree programmes and taught Masters degree programmes should normally be examined separately - i.e. by the setting of separate examination papers.

December 2014