Level of modules
Modules are numbered according to a University of Birmingham scheme which is not equivalent to the numbering schemes in American or other universities and colleges. In choosing modules, you should be guided by the year of study in which the modules are offered to British degree students, rather than the module number. Bear in mind that most bachelors degrees in the UK are of three years’ duration. In general, second and third year courses will qualify as upper division. First year courses should be regarded as lower division.
If you have queries about the suitability of a particular modules or level of modules, the Study Abroad and Exchanges Office will be happy to give advice.
Availability of courses
The on-line module directory lists the modules which the University regularly provides. Most of the modules listed are available every year as they form a permanent part of particular undergraduate degree programmes. Some modules may be unavailable in a given year for various reasons, such as those affecting staff - leave of absence, resignation, or new appointments. Up to date information is available from the Study Abroad and Exchanges Office. If we have to withdraw a module for which you have applied, we will suggest alternatives to you. If the availability of a particular module is essential to your plans, please enquire specifically about its availability when you apply.
Many modules can be taken by all students but in some cases we require evidence of previous study of the subject or of a related subject. The pre-requisites are referred to in the module descriptions in the on-line catalogue. If you are in doubt about your eligibility for a module for which there are pre-requisites, please include brief details of your previous study when you apply. If a department considers that you are not eligible for enrolment for a module, they will suggest alternatives for which you would be eligible.
The academic year at Birmingham
The academic year is divided into three terms as follows:
Autumn Term: September to December (11 weeks of teaching plus a welcome week
Spring Term: January to March (11 weeks)
Summer Term: April to June (8 weeks)
Full details of dates of terms can be found here. There is no teaching in the Summer Term; it is used for revision and examinations. The exam period begins in early May and ends in the first week of June. Although term extends until the middle of June, students are permitted to leave as soon as their exams are completed. This means that some students may be finished by the middle of May. It is understood that some students must return home for summer jobs, or summer sessions at their home universities but other students prefer to remain until the end of term as there are many social events on campus such as the Summer Ball. Students also use the campus as a convenient base for travelling around the UK or Europe. Please note that students electing to leave early will remain responsible for accommodation charges until the end of the term.
The methods used in teaching vary; some modules are taught by lectures and tutorials, others by seminars alone and others involve laboratory or practical work. Seminars are normally groups of no more than 20 students. The period of each individual session is usually one hour though some modules have 90-minute or two-hour classes. A typical humanities or social sciences module would consist each week of a one hour lecture to the whole group which would then divide into sections of 15 to 20 students, each of which would have a one hour tutorial during the same week. Students are required to undertake a significant quantity of independent study in addition to time in class.
Methods of assessment
The various methods used by departments in the University to assess work include essays, examinations, individual and group presentations, on-line tasks, seminar, class, or discussion papers and laboratory reports.
Study Abroad students are assessed in the same way as degree students on each module. However, there are certain modifications for part-year students (that is, students who leave in December or who arrive in January).
All the examinations at Birmingham are held in May/June—even for modules which are taught wholly in the Autumn Term. This means that students leaving in December will need to undertake some additional assessment in place of the examination. In some cases, this takes the form of a special examination in the last week of term but in other cases there will be an additional essay, or an essay that is longer than normal.
Students arriving in January sit examinations at the usual time but of course where students have joined full-year modules part way through, they will sit shorter examinations that do not include material from the Autumn Term.
Credits and grades
Students must take a full credit load. This means that students who are at Birmingham for the full year must take 120 Birmingham credits. Students at Birmingham for part of the year must take 60 Birmingham credits.
The number of modules required to obtain that number of credits varies because different modules carry a different number of credits. Remember that if a module is worth, for example, 20 credits and it is a full-year module, a part-year student taking only half of the module will receive only 10 credits.
Please note, students who are registered for the Spring/Summer Terms or for the full year do not have the option of absenting themselves from exams for fewer credits.
In terms of ECTS credits, a full year at Birmingham is worth 60 ECTS. Part of a year will be worth 30 ECTS.
Transfer of credits and grades
In January (for December leavers) and July, marks are ratified by an Examination Board. After the Board, a transcript of results will automatically be sent to each student and also to each student's home university.
Of course, policy on the transfer of credits and grades is a matter for each student's home institution, but the following table is a guide to the translation of marks.
American Letter Grade University of Birmingham numerical mark UK Honours Class
A+ 70+ I
A 65-69 II.i
A- 60-64 II.i
B+ 58-59 II.ii
B 55-57 II.ii
B- 53-54 II.ii
C+ 50-52 II.ii
C 45-49 III
C- 41-44 III
D 40 III
F 0-39 Fail