Degree basics

BA vs BSc, Majors, Honours, Minors, electives, requirements, units... we explain the nuts and bolts of a UVic degree so that it makes sense.  The academic calendar always remains the definitive source for this information, so if you aren't sure about a regulation, make sure you check there and ask for help if you need it.

So how does it all work?


Our faculties offer both Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BSc) degrees.  At UVic, degrees usually require at least 60.0 units of coursework, which works out to around 40 courses (most courses are 1.5 units each).  For full-time students who are taking ten courses per year, a degree will take about four years.   The many departments in the faculties of Humanities, Science, and Social Sciences offer a large number of programs, allowing students to find an area (or areas) of focus for their degrees.

Common undergraduate degree requirements

  Any UVic undergraduate degree* requires at least: 

  • 60.0 units of coursework with at least 30.0 units completed at UVic. 21.0 of the 60.0 units must be from 300/400 level courses, and at least 18.0 of the 300/400 level units must be completed at UVic (please see residency requirement in the Academic Calendar for details). 
  • completion of the Academic Writing Requirement
  • satisfied the requirements outlined in the calendar by the department(s) whose program(s) the student has taken
  • a graduating GPA of at least 2.0 (this GPA is calculated based on all 300- and 400-level coursework completed or attempted).

* Information refers to students who are completing their first undergraduate degree.  Students completing subsequent bachelors degrees may have different requirements.

Faculty requirements

Each faculty is able to set common requirements that must be satisfied by all students who wish to be granted degrees by that faculty.  These requirements are reported in the faculty entry of the academic calendar, and are checked by the CAPP report (degree audit) and by Undergraduate Records prior to degrees being granted.

In addition to the requirements outlined under common degree requirements above, the following faculties have additional specific requirements.  Students must complete:

Faculty of Humanities

  • 6.0 units of courses outside the student’s primary area of study and
  • 4.5 units from the Humanities Global Language and Culture Requirement (see the Humanities calendar entry for a complete list), with no duplication of courses between these two sets of requirements

Faculty of Science

Program types and requirements

Programs dictate which specific courses you will be required to take within your degree. They are offered by the departments and schools (e.g. Anthropology, Biology, Philosophy) within our faculties. Our departments offer major, combined major, minor, general, and honours programs. These programs have minimum 300/400 level requirements, and varied requirements at the 100/200 level. The difference between the required courses for your program and the minimum degree requirements make up your electives.

Major programs are the most common, and require 15.0 units of discipline-specific coursework at the 300/400 level.

Combined majors are available in some departments, which combine requirements from two departments and sometimes require more than 15.0 units of 300/400 level coursework (e.g., combined major in Biology and Psychology, combined major in Financial Math and Economics).

Double majors are also available - you can choose to complete two major programs within one degree, completing the required courses for both programs. There are a few combinations that are not allowed (see the list of disallowed combinations under double major programs in the calendar), but most are permitted so be creative!

Honours programs have the most requirements, including minimum GPA requirements for entry and completion. If you'd like to do Honours, you will need to apply through the Honours adviser in your department. Combined honours and double honours programs are also available. Honours programs are good preparation for students who wish to pursue graduate studies in the future.

General programs have the fewest number of upper-level courses required, but you must choose two general programs to complete in combination. For example, in order to complete a BA General in English, you would need a second general program (e.g. History), so the degree would be a BA General in English and History.

Minor programs are similar to General programs (in many cases they are identical). A minor is an optional program that allows students to study in an area outside their honours, major or general program areas. Students may only declare one minor in a degree program.

While you will have identified an intended area of study on your application to UVic, you are not automatically enrolled in the corresponding program on admission to the university and must submit a formal request to declare your program once you have 12.0 units of post-secondary coursework complete.


Most degree programs don't outline 60.0 units of specific, require coursework; students have space to choose courses based on interest. These courses are referred to as electives.

Electives can be confusing for students because the term doesn't refer to specific courses - there isn't a list of courses in the calendar labelled electives. Rather, electives are courses that are not being used in satisfaction of a specific program requirement. They might be courses that a student has chosen with the intention of using it as an elective, or they might be courses that were taken at another institution or when a student was working on a different program. For example:

When Kristen first came to UVic, she applied to the Faculty of Social Sciences with the intent to complete a Bachelor of Arts in Geography. She completed her first year, and during that year realized that she really enjoyed the 100-level Biology course that she had taken out of interest. Kristen decided to switch gears and complete a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Since Geography courses are not specifically required for a Biology major, those first-year Geography classes that she had completed in her first year became electives in her Biology degree.

When choosing electives, it is important to consider whether you have satisfied requirements for upper-level courses in your program. Most major programs require 15.0 units of 300/400 level coursework, but degrees require 21.0 units. This means that most students need to include at least 6.0 units of 300/400 level electives in their degree programs.

To visualize how much of a particular degree program is comprised of electives, take a look at our program planning worksheets.

Certificates and diplomas

While UVic primarily offers degrees, there are a number of certificate and diploma programs available.  These programs usually require fewer units of credit than degrees, and can be useful for students who are interested in completing a credential in a shorter time period.  Many of our certificate and diploma programs are geared towards students who are returning to post-secondary education after having completed a degree.  This is not true for all of our certificates and diplomas - you are encouraged to explore the various programs to see if there is one that interests you.

Note: Some students choose to complete a certificate or diploma and a degree concurrently.  This means that they are working on both credentials at the same time.  There are specific regulations and requirements around doing concurrent programs, so if this is something that you are interested in, please be sure to check in with an academic adviser.  One important point to remember is that you must not graduate with your degree prior to completing your diploma or certificate, as all courses will be pulled into your degree and will not be available for your certificate or diploma. 

The academic calendar is your complete reference for academic regulations, administrative policies and faculty, degree, course and prerequisite regulations. Make sure you refer to the current year's academic calendar as course requirements can change from year to year. Don’t rely on last year’s information to make this year’s decisions.