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Learning and Teaching Handbook

3.5.1: Undergraduate


1. The University operates a modular scheme. Each credit represents 10 hours of SLAT (Student Learning Activity Time).  Modules can be offered in multiples of 10 credits (normally the maximum size of a module is 60 credits, although larger sizes can be considered where a special academic case is made to the relevant Faculty Education Committee), and can be delivered over the full academic year or a part of this year (subject to timetabling constraints). The total SLAT for each level must be 1200 hours, i.e. 120 credits. Modules may be of two principal types, i.e. "open" modules and "tied" modules. An "open" module is available to any student who can satisfy its prerequisites. A "tied" module is only available to students following the named Single/Joint or Combined Honours/Natural Sciences programme(s) to which the module is tied. A "tied" module may, but need not necessarily, be compulsory on the programme(s) to which it is tied. The UCAS code(s) of programme(s) to which a module is tied should be specified in the module outline. This information will be published in the Online Faculty Handbook.

2. The academic year at Durham is divided into three terms comprising 22 weeks of learning and teaching activity prior to the annual assessment period, and a further three weeks after the end of examination period where learning and teaching activity may be scheduled.

3. Undergraduate modules may be offered over the course of the Michaelmas, Epiphany and (where appropriate) Easter Terms (often referred to as the 'long, thin' mode of delivery).  They may also be offered over a shorter length of time (for example a single term;  often referred to as the 'short, fat' mode of delivery), subject to timetabling constraints

4. The core progression regulations and the requirements for each degree programme are set out in the University Calendar.

University-level rulings

Module Choice

5. Departments in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health are permitted to restrict a student's choice of an open module to departments in the Faculty as long as at least 20 credits) of the 120 credits for the level can be chosen from those offered across the University as a whole.

6. Module caps are only permitted where approved by the Chair of the relevant Faculty Education Committee, and each cap should be renewed each year. Each request for capping should be accompanied by the following:

a. the number of students to which the cap applies;

b. evidence that this has been considered by the Board of Studies;

c. a reason for the cap;

d. confirmation that students with an expectation of access to the module would not be disadvantaged.


7. In all modules students must be treated in exactly the same way with regard to course provision and assessment whether they are Single Honours Students, or Joint Honours Students/Combined Honours or Natural Sciences Students.

8. Tutorials, coursework, laboratory sessions, etc appropriate to a particular module must be contained in that module. Departments are not permitted to offer a separate module for tutorials.

9. Field work may be considered part of the 200 total SLAT hours or may be excluded from the total. If they are excluded then this must be stated explicitly on the information provided to students for the programme.

10. All modules are as a single package and no student is permitted to take part of a module (for example, a student may not take half a 20 credit module in order to obtain 10 credits of a third of a 60 credit module in order to gain 30 credits).

11. Dissertations/major project: A dissertation/major project is defined as a substantial piece of work normally undertaken on a special project or a particular area of study which typically counts for 40 credits. Out of 240 credits in Levels 2 and 3, dissertations should not be more than a total of 40 credits. A dissertation can consist of either a 20 credit module in one or each of two subjects or a 40 credit module in one subject or double subject, jointly supervised by two departments.


12. Where modules are to be assessed wholly by coursework, the submission date of the final piece of summative assessed coursework should be no sooner than before the end of teaching week 22.

13. All examinations and assessments required for progression from all modules taken in any academic year must be completed by the end of the teaching year. Any special cases where the work cannot be assessed by the end of the teaching year must be identified and approval must be sought from the appropriate Faculty Education Committee as part of the consideration of the module proposal.

14. Teaching commitments take precedence over Collections and therefore any department wishing to set Collections should ensure that these take place within the timetabled hours of the first week of the Epiphany Term.


15. The University does not recognise the concept of a formal reading week. Departments are, however, at liberty to propose different contact hours for different weeks during the academic year.

16. In cases where undergraduate students and postgraduate students are studying the same module the credit values ascribed should be the same.

17. No student can be awarded a degree whose title is not included in the University Calendar.

18. Please refer to Section 7.5.3 for information on Module and Credit Frameworks.

Faculty-level guidance



19. The length of a 20 credit module dissertation should not normally exceed 8,000 words.

20. The length of a 40 credit module dissertation should not normally exceed 12,000 words.

21. The 31 January in a student's final year should be regarded as the earliest date by which departments can require the dissertation to be submitted.

22. As a general principle all students registered for a particular dissertation module should receive equal treatment. The Faculty is not in favour of departmental statements of practice to the effect that "a supervisor need not comment on the first draft..." since this is liable to be interpreted differently by different members of staff.

23. Statements of departmental practice in this area, which should include the respective responsibilities of student and staff, should be:

a. clearly publicised to students, via departmental/school handbooks.

b. applied consistently by all members of staff.

24. In the case of students registered for Joint Honours degrees which allow the dissertation to be taken in either department, the two departments concerned should consider carefully the possible implications of any marked differences in practice between them.

Contact hours

25. 20 credit modules (excluding the dissertation) should normally be expected to involve at least 28 hours of formal contact.

Module provision and progression

26. For good pedagogic reasons, it is not possible for a full choice of one, two or three modules to be offered to Combined Honours students in all subjects in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities but a sufficient balance of one, two and three module combinations is available in the Faculty overall.


Module choice

27. Special regulations for Level 1 within the Faculty of Science should allow students the opportunity to take modules offered by any Board of Studies and should not specify specific elective modules in their own department.


28. The use of Collections should be left to the discretion of individual Boards of Studies.


Contact hours

29. The acceptable range for the amount of contact hours in respect of 20 credit modules in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health should be between 25 and 88 hours (a minimum of one one-hour lecture per week together with a termly one-hour tutorial). Dissertation and fieldwork-based modules will however need to be considered separately.


30. As a general principle, all modules in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health should allow students the opportunity to submit work which will not count towards their final mark. A case will need to be made for any modules which it is proposed to offer without formative assessment.