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How modules and courses work

The academic year

In the UK, the standard academic year starts in September or October and runs until June or July.

Postgraduate courses often run from September to September, and there are other courses that are more flexible and offer a range of start dates.

Subjects and modules

Most higher education courses have a ‘modular’ structure. This means that you can build a personalised course by choosing modules or units of study from different subject areas. For example, if you are studying English literature, for your first year you could choose one module on science fiction, one module on children’s literature, and one module on short stories.

If you are interested in more than one subject, you may be able to study a combination as part of your course, e.g. English literature and psychology. You can often decide for yourself how much time you would like to spend on each subject. A ‘Joint’ degree is one where two subjects are studied equally, and a ‘major/minor’ degree is usually one where the student’s time has a 75 per cent to 25 per cent split.

Study modes

Most full-time undergraduate courses take three years to complete (typically four years in Scotland). Full-time postgraduate courses can be from one year upwards.

Some degrees are available to study as accelerated courses taken over two years instead of three so that you can gain your qualification even faster. Accelerated degrees have the same number of modules as their three-year options, allowing you to get even better value for money by getting the same course with a year less living costs.

Part-time courses are normally taken over a longer period so that you can work alongside your studies or learn at a more relaxed pace. If you need a visa to study in the UK, please check if your immigration status allows you to do a part-time course.

More in this section

What subjects can I study?

UK universities have some of the most diverse subject offerings in the world. Explore some of the subjects most popular with international students.

See also

Undergraduate study

Get started in your academic career with a UK undergraduate degree.

Postgraduate study

Studying for a postgraduate degree in the UK can transform your career, with many courses taking just one year to complete.