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Durham University

Natural Sciences

Principles for programme concessions

Most modules that Natural Sciences students take have some sort of rule attached to it, i.e. a prerequisite or it may be tied to particular degree programmes. So what happens in the case that you wish to break a rule associated with a module (permission to take module outside the regulations) or a rule associated with your degree programme (exemption from programme requirements)? In that case you will need a programme concession which adheres to the University's General Guidance regarding Concessions and it is the responsibility of Natural Sciences to request Concessions. Concessions are exceptional and below we list some of the principles that Natural Sciences adheres to when making requests students' behalf:


Prerequisites: As Departments have put thought into their pathways if you don't meet the prerequisite of a module in some form then you will not be able to take the module. Apart from directly meeting the prerequisite, there are two other forms where Natural Sciences would be prepared to support a concession and in all cases you are strongly advised to talk to the Director at an early stage to avoid disappointment:

  • Rarely prior learning in modules from your other subject discipline is sufficient and where we learn of this we aim to get these built into the module prerequisites in future years. Typically prior learning in other subject disciplines doesn't apply to Group 1 subjects, Economics and Philosophy.
  • In Group 1 subjects, over the summer vacation you do can do "module catch-up work" which typically you should expect to be tested on during the resit period to prove that you've met the learning outcomes of the relevant prerequisite module. Normally we only permit students to catch-up on one 20 credit module as this equates to 200 hours work which for a 40 hour week would take 5 weeks - there isn't time for more. Also, we will not support concessions to catch-up for students who have examinations in August.

Tied: The vast majority of modules on offer from Departments contributing to Natural Sciences are open to our students. Where this is not the case there is normally be a resource or very degree programme specific reason that the module is not open to Natural Sciences students. With Group 1 subjects, Economics and Philosophy exceptions are incredibly rare so before asking the Department inquire with the Director at an early stage to avoid disappointment. If a student wishes to take a tied module, they will need to provide a rationale in writing about why they wish to take the module and also why any other modules that they could take that meet Natural Sciences programme regulations are less suitable - this respects the limitations placed on the module by the Department.


Concessions to programme regulations in Years 1, 3 and 4 are very rare indeed. The case needs to be compelling and the most common concession in Year 2 is to allow a student to take 40 credits at Level 1 where all of the credits are essential for progression or enhanced employability or career progression. The three most common examples are:

  • A Year 1 Chemistry-Maths-Physics student who wishes to take Maths and Physics in Year 2 and so needs to take Analysis I (MATH1051) and Discovery Skills In Physics (PHYS1101);
  • A student who wishes to take a Centre for Language Studies module in Year 2 and also needs to take an essential Level 1 module.
  • Clashes of Year 2 modules that deny the student of the possibility of building a programme of study.

There are no other common examples and exceptions to programme regulations are incredibly rare so inquire with the Director at an early stage to avoid disappointment.