More Opportunities for Honours

AY2014/15 will be an exciting year for NUS. We have in the pipeline several new initiatives to deliver a comprehensive and well-rounded education that equips NUS graduates with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and attributes for life and work in the 21st century.


I have already shared extensively on my blog about the grade-free first semester which is to be implemented next month for the incoming students. Integrated industry attachments, an enhanced Career Centre and the launch of the Ridge View Residential College (RVRC) are some of the other initiatives that our new students can look forward to. RVRC will offer a unique experience which combines the benefits of residential college learning with career preparation and student exposure to industry. I hope to write about these initiatives later.


In conjunction with these new initiatives, I am pleased to share that from the new academic year, NUS will be introducing two further changes to the undergraduate education system.


These changes will apply to new cohorts of students who are admitted from AY2014/15 onwards. The good news is that it will also be retroactively extended to two existing cohorts (i.e., the AY2012/13 and AY2013/14 cohorts) as no students in these cohorts have graduated prior to 30 June 2014.


First, we will be increasing the opportunities for undergraduate students to pursue the Honours degree. This is in line with the increasing number of academically qualified undergraduates at NUS, as reflected in the University Admission Scores of applicants admitted into NUS. Indeed, we are proud that many good students see the strengths and quality of an NUS education, and choose to pursue their university education at NUS. (This year, we are happy to record a significant increase in the acceptance rate, and we look forward to welcoming the freshmen of AY2014/15.)


NUS currently offers two types of Honours programmes in the modular system (i.e., excluding Law, Medicine, Dentistry and Yale-NUS). Some students may enrol directly into Honours programmes at the point of admission into the University (as is the case for Engineering, Computing, Design and Environment, Music and some programmes like Environmental Studies and Pharmacy). For such programmes, students study a four-year curriculum after which the conferment of an Honours degree is based on merit.


We have, for historical reasons, allowed an exit at the end of the third year for Arts and Social Sciences, Business and Science. In addition, for these three Faculties we reserve the Honours degree for our higher performing students, i.e., those who attain a B average at the end of their third year.


The Honours programme provides important added value in preparing our graduates for a rapidly changing work environment. The University has therefore reviewed the CAP requirements, and will give more students from Arts and Social Sciences, Business, Science, and Nursing, the opportunity to proceed on to the Honours track.


With this change, more academically strong students from Arts and Social Sciences, Business, Science and Nursing who wish to pursue the Honours programme can choose to do so. At the same time, they continue to enjoy the flexibility of graduating with a Bachelor’s degree if they so prefer.


It is useful to point out that whether students enrol directly into Honours programmes or are admitted at the end of their third year, the conferment of an Honours degree is not automatic but merit-based. For cohorts AY2012/13 and after, NUS will award Honours degrees to students who have completed a four-year curriculum and have achieved a CAP of 3.00 and above.


Second, we will adopt a new nomenclature for our degree classification, similar to that used by major US universities, to more accurately reflect the academic accomplishments of our deserving graduates, who are amongst the top students of each birth cohort. The same high academic standards will be maintained for all our undergraduate programmes.


We are renaming First Class Honours as “Honours (Highest Distinction)”, Second Class (Upper) Honours as “Honours (Distinction)”, Second Class (Lower) Honours as “Honours (Merit)” and Third Class Honours as “Honours”. The CAP requirements for each class of Honours remain largely unchanged from the current requirements.


Here is the new nomenclature with the corresponding CAP cut-offs at a glance:


Honours Degree Classification Criteria (New)
Honours   (Highest Distinction) CAP   4.50 and above
Honours   (Distinction) CAP   4.00 – 4.49
Honours   (Merit) CAP   3.50 – 3.99
Honours CAP   3.00 – 3.49
Pass CAP   2.00 – 2.99
Bachelor’s Degree Classification
Pass   with Merit CAP   3.00 and above
Pass CAP   2.00 – 2.99



As the Faculty of Law’s class of Honours nomenclature are specifically referenced in legislation, the Faculty of Law’s Honours nomenclature will remain status quo for now.


High standards and quality have and will always be the hallmarks of an NUS education. Our high standards will continue to be upheld even as we consistently admit the majority of top students in each birth cohort.


I am confident that these are positive changes in NUS’ education system for our students, and I hope you can join me in looking forward to all these exciting new initiatives.