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A Bachelor of Arts (B.A., BA, A.B., or AB), from the Latin artium baccalaureus or baccalarium artium, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both. Bachelor of Arts degree programs generally take three to four years depending on the country, academic institution, and specific specializations, majors or minors. The word baccalaureus or baccalarium (from the Latin bacca, a berry, and laureus, "of the bay laurel") should not be confused with baccalaureatus (translatable as "gold-plated scepter" by using the Latin baculum and aureatus), which refers to the one- to two-year postgraduate Bachelor of Arts with Honours degree (Baccalaureatus in Artibus Cum Honore) in some countries.
Diplomas generally give the name of the institution, signatures of officials of the institution (generally the president or rector of the university as well as the secretary or dean of the component college), the type of degree conferred, the conferring authority and the location at which the degree is conferred. Degree diplomas generally are printed on high quality paper or parchment; individual institutions set the preferred abbreviation for their degrees.
The Bachelor of Arts degree is usually attained in four (4) years in Lebanon, Armenia, Greece, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Iran, Japan, Nigeria, Serbia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, the Russian Federation, Ireland, South Korea, Iraq, Tunisia, Kuwait, and Turkey, and most of the Americas.
They generally last three (3) years in nearly all of the European Union, and in Albania, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, Israel, New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, Singapore, the Caribbean, South Africa, Switzerland, and the Canadian province of Quebec.
In colleges and universities in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the B.A. degree can be taken over three years of full-time study. Students must pursue at least one major area of study, and units from that subject are usually studied in each year, though sometimes students may choose to complete upper level classes in the same year and thus can leave space for elective subjects from a different field. At some universities students may choose to pursue a second major; alternatively, the remainder of the degree is taken up with a minor area of study (in the first two years) and other individual or stream-based subjects make up the degree. Unlike in other countries, students do not receive an overall grade for their Bachelor of Arts degree with varying levels of honours ("honours" is a distinction but not part of the degree itself). Qualified students may be admitted, after they have achieved their (general) Bachelor's program with a high overall grade point average, to a further one year Bachelor (with) Honours degree program ((with) Honours is part of the degree itself). Thus, to achieve a Bachelor (with) Honours degree (abbr. e.g. BA (Hons.) or BA hons.), an extra "postgraduate" year and a high research honour's thesis must be completed; see Honours Degrees. A student who holds a (with) Honours degree is eligible for direct entry to either a Doctorate (Ph.D.) or a very high research Master´s degree program.
Education in Canada is controlled by the Provinces, and can be very different depending on the region in Canada. Canadian colleges and universities typically offers a 4, and to a much lesser extent 3 year Bachelor of Arts (B.A.). In many universities and colleges Bachelor of Art degrees are differentiated either as Bachelors of Arts or as honours Bachelor of Arts degree. The term "Honours" is an academic distinction, which indicates that students must achieve their Bachelor of Arts degree with a sufficiently high overall grade point average; in addition, some programs may require more education than non-honours programs. The honours degrees are sometimes designated with the abbreviation in brackets of '(Hon(s))'. It should not be confused with the consecutive Bachelor of Arts degree "with Honours", Latin "Baccalaureatus in Artibus Cum Honore", abbr. 'BA hon.' de jure without brackets and with a dot. It is a "postgraduate" degree, which is considered to be the equivalent of a corresponding maîtrise degree under the French influenced system. Going back in history, a three-year Bachelor of Arts degree (also known e.g. in Québec as grade de bachelier ès arts) was also called a pass degree or general degree. A student who first achieve a general Bachelor of Arts degree with a sufficiently high overall average may be admitted to a "postgraduate" Baccalaureatus Cum Honrore degree in the same field; it requires a minimum of one years but may also take longer; it typically does not exceed two years. Students are required to undertake a long high quality research empirical thesis (Honours Seminar Thesis) combined with a selection of courses from the relevant field of studies. The consecutive B. Cum Honore degree is essential if students ultimate goal is to study towards a two- or three-year very high research masters´ degree qualification. A student holding a Baccalaureatus Cum Honore degree also may choose to complete a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program without the requirement to first complete a Master's degree. Over the years, in some universities certain Baccalaureatus Cum Honore programs have been changed to corresponding master´s degrees.
In general, in all four countries the B.A. degree is the standard required for entry into a master's programme. In science, a BA hons. degree is generally prerequiste for entrance to a Ph.D programme or a very-high-research-activity master´s programme. As such, for example the UK awarded honours designation should not be confused with Canadian, Australian, New Zealands and South African awarded BA hons./BA (Hons.) degree. For further clarification, in other countries the so-called honours bachelor may not be an actual degree, but the name of a (vocational) programme which can be completed through specified course work, a high grade average, and the completion of possibly a short paper or project; students who completed such a honours B.A. programm sometimes style themselves by '(Hon)' after the degree abbreviation without a space, in parenthesizes and after the 'Hon(s)' without a dot, for example 'B.A.(Hon)'. The 3 and 4 year B.A. degree is also accepted for entry into graduate professional programmes such as law or an M.B.A. program.
In the Netherlands, the Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees were introduced in 2002. Until then there was a single program which led to the doctorandus degree. This comprised the same course load as the Bachelor and Master programs combined. (The title doctorandus was used in almost all fields of study; other titles were used for legal studies (meester) and engineering (ingenieur).) Those who had already started the doctorandus program could, on completing it, opt for the doctorandus degree (entitling them to use "Drs." in front of their name), or could use the Master’s degree (post-nominal letters) in accordance with the new standard. A similar practice has been introduced in other EU countries, according to the Bologna Process.
In Germany, university-level education usually happens in either a Universität (plural: Universitäten) or a Fachhochschule (plural: Fachhochschulen); both can be referred to as a Hochschule, which is the generic term in Germany for all institutions awarding academic degrees. Fachhochschule is often translated as "University of Applied Sciences". Universitäten place greater emphasis on fundamental science and theoretical background, while Fachhochschulen are generally designed with a focus on teaching professional skills. Degrees earned at Universitäten and Fachhochschulen are legally equivalent.
In Germany, the B.A. normally lasts between 3 and 3 ½ years – 6 or 7 semesters – and is awarded after the student earns between 180 and 210 ECTS.
In the United Kingdom (excluding Scotland) and Ireland, the first degree course normally lasts three years, but nomenclature varies: 19th-century and later universities usually distinguish between arts and sciences subjects by awarding either a B.A. or B.Sc. degree. However, some older or ancient universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin traditionally award B.A.s to undergraduates having completed the final examinations, e.g. Part II Tripos (Cambridge), Final Honour Schools (Oxford), Moderatorship (Dublin), in most subjects including the sciences. Some new plate glass universities established in the 1960s, such as York and Lancaster originally followed the practice of Oxford and Cambridge by awarding B.A.s in all subjects, but have since changed to awarding B.Sc. degrees in science subjects. At Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin the degree of M.A. can be claimed for a nominal administrative fee, usually 21 terms after matriculation. For many centuries, the bachelor's degree was an intermediate step and was awarded for much of the work carried out in later times at secondary schools. The names of the final secondary school exams in France and Spain (and increasingly in the UK - the International Baccalaureate) come from this: le Baccalauréat and el Bachillerato, respectively.
The Ancient Universities of Scotland award a Master of Arts degree to humanities or arts graduates, but a B.Sc. to science graduates. This course takes 4 years for an honours degree and three for an ordinary (in Scotland it is possible to opt to take an ordinary degree rather than this simply ranking below a third class honours).
A Bachelor of Arts is entitled to the designation B.A. for an ordinary/pass degree and B.A. (Hons) for an honours degree. Students who completed an honours B.A. sometimes style themselves by '(Hon)' or '(Hons)' after the degree abbreviation in parenthesizes. An honours degree is always awarded in one of four classes depending upon the marks gained in the final assessments and examinations. The top students are awarded a first-class degree, followed by an upper second-class degree (usually referred to as a 2:1), a lower second-class degree (usually referred to as a 2:2), and those with the lowest marks gain a third-class degree. An ordinary or unclassified degree (which does not give the graduate the right to add '(Hons)') may be awarded if a student has completed the full honours degree course but has not obtained the total required passes sufficient to merit a third-class honours degree. Typically these degrees lack the last year requirement of a dissertation.
In the United States, the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Artium Baccalaureus (A.B.) is one of two basic undergraduate degrees. The other is the Bachelor of Science. At most institutions, the B.A. and B.S. have all but identical requirements with regard to the number of 120 semester hours or 180 quarter hours for a basic undergraduate degree. Curricula leading to the B.A., however, often require a certain minimum number of the total degree credits be drawn from coursework in topical areas historically associated with the liberal arts - such as language, literature, humanities, mathematics, history, museum studies, physical sciences, and social sciences. At Eastern Michigan University, for example, 75 of the minimum 124 credits must be earned in these subject areas - regardless of what the student may choose as a major or minor subject - including one year of study over two consecutive semesters of one foreign language. Until recently, many major universities in the United States required a student to complete a certain number of credit hours while attending campus-based courses. With the emergence of E-learning, residency requirements are losing popularity as educational institutions are expanding their ability to offer online degrees at all postsecondary education levels.