Is a top-up degree right for me?

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Getting a degree doesn’t mean having to spend three to four straight years at university. There are now a host of ways for students of all ages to attain degree-level qualifications and a top-up degree is just one of them.

What is a top-up degree?

A top-up degree is aimed at students who already hold a Foundation Degree or Higher National Diploma (HND) and are looking to “top up” their qualification to a full honours degree. A top-up degree allows you to do this without having to start from scratch, i.e. year one of an honours degree. Instead, students can tack on an extra year of study to gain the full qualification they need to take them further.

Top-up degree vs degree – how they differ

Entry requirements

Regular degree courses vary in their entry requirements but typically require students to possess A levels and GCSEs of certain grades, or equivalent college qualifications. This means that full honours degree programmes can be easier to gain entry to, depending on your grades.

Top-up degrees require you to already possess a Foundation Degree or HND qualification in a subject closely tied to your chosen top up degree subject, plus relevant work experience. This means that full honours degrees give you a wider breadth of subject choices and more room for manoeuvre should you choose to vary your subjects at a later stage.

Course length

Full honours degree programmes typically take three years to complete in the UK.

On the other hand, top-up degrees only take one year to complete.

Study options

Top up degrees can be undertaken in a variety of ways, either full-time or part-time, work-based, online or on-campus. This means that students can continue to work while they work towards their top-up degree, helping to reduce the overall cost of tuition. Switching to a part-time top-up course means that your top-up degree will take longer to complete.


Whether you choose a full degree or top-up degree the resultant qualification is the same – a full honours degree. This opens up a wider variety of career options, can lead to promotion or salary increases, as well as giving students the opportunity for further study. Successful graduates can then go on to earn a Masters Degree or PhD in their chosen subject.

Top-up degree vs degree – which is right for you?

Your existing qualifications are your guide here. If you already hold a Foundation Degree or HND in a subject you want to study further, then a top-up degree is perfect for you. It enables you to earn a full honours degree in one year rather than having to go back and start a three-year honours programme from scratch.

However, a top-up degree does need to be closely tied with the subject of your existing qualifications. So, if you’re looking for a change of study or career path, then you may find that an honours degree programme offers you a wider choice of subjects.

The University of Lincoln Work-Based Learning top-up degrees will help you achieve your career goals and obtain a qualification with a global focus. Find out more about the Lincoln WBDL programmes.


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