The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







In some educational systems, an undergraduate is a post-secondary student pursuing a Bachelor's degree. Students of higher degrees are known as postgraduates (or often simply graduates).

In the United States, most undergraduate education takes place at four-year colleges or universities. Students in their first, second, third, and fourth years of study are often called, respectively, freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors (although some institutions, such as many women's colleges, substitute "first-year" for "freshman" in an attempt to remain more gender-neutral). Some institutions (e.g. liberal-arts colleges) offer primarily or exclusively undergraduate education, while most universities offer graduate study as well. Successful completion of undergraduate work generally requires the completion of many courses of varying subject and difficulty, and a concentration or "major" that focuses on a particular academic discipline.

In the United Kingdom, undergraduate refers to the first three or four years of study towards a Bachelor's degree.

In many other, particularly continental European systems, something like an "undergraduate" degree in the American sense does not exist. Other than in the US, where students engage in general studies during the first years of tertiary education and only specialize in a "major" during the last years of college, European students enroll in a specific course of studies they wish to pursue right from the beginning, as they are expected to have received a sound general education already on the secondary level, in a school such as a gymnasium or lycée. At university, which they can enter at an age as early as 18 in many countries, they specialize in a subject field which they pursue in a curriculum of, in most cases, four or five years of studies. The fields available include those which are only taught as graduate degrees in the US, such as law, medicine or business administration. After completing the first degree, students can move on to doctoral studies. In many countries, the English distinction between a bachelor's and master's degree is only now being introduced by the Bologna process, meaning that the first degree would roughly correspond to a master's degree in the US or the UK.

See also

Last updated: 05-07-2005 15:44:09
Last updated: 05-07-2005 18:09:53