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Degree awarding powers

Students who successfully complete a course of study usually receive a diploma, certificate or degree.

If they are awarded a degree, it can be a foundation degree, a bachelor's degree with honours, a master's degree or a doctorate.

Study for a foundation or bachelor's degree is known as undergraduate study and other study, at a higher level, as postgraduate study.

Further information is available in the Framework for higher education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Historically universities and colleges were usually given their degree awarding powers by one of the following means:

  • Royal Charter - granted in perpetuity
  • Act of Parliament - granted in perpetuity
  • The Privy Council - granted in perpetuity, if the provider receives government grant funding when it applies, or for a fixed term of six years, after which the provider needs to re-apply.

Applying for degree awarding powers

Any HE provider which does not currently hold degree awarding powers can apply to HEFCE.

We administer the process for the Government but the Quality Assurance Agency undertake the detailed assessment and provide advice.

The Government publishes guidance on the application process and decisions about these applications are made by the Privy Council.

Read the government guidance

There are three types of degree awarding power: for foundation degrees, for taught degrees, and for research degrees.

These powers are ‘cumulative’. This means that a provider with teaching degree awarding powers can also award foundation degrees, and a provider with the power to award research degrees can award taught and foundation degrees.

Only further education corporations may be granted foundation degree awarding powers.

The HEFCE register of HE providers records the degree awarding powers held by providers. 

Page last updated 15 September 2015

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