For many alumni the Honours year and Honours degree was the highlight of their Rhodes career. Why? Well, Honours courses stretch you; they can bring your qualification up to a level where it competes with degrees at prestigious universities all over the world; they allow you to really get to grips with a discipline without the often distractive features of compulsory, perhaps boring ancillaries; they give you the opportunity of really engaging with the staff and with your fellow students in small groups; and of course, they give you a great opportunity to discover the joys and satisfaction of research - even of producing your first publications and going on your first trips to conferences.
In some careers, students cannot be professionally registered unless they have at least a four year qualification - obvious examples being dentistry, law, architecture and chartered accountancy. An Honours degree is not a "meal ticket" - our Honours degrees, like our BSc degrees, are broadly formative. Although they are needed for entry into Master's (and later, PhD) programmes, they don't give you a "professional" qualification. After an Honours degree in (say) physics you are not condemned to become a physicist, astronomer or electronic technician. Although, obviously, you will slip into a career in one of those exciting areas more quickly than into a career in politics, music or economics, you should have learned a whole gamut of skills - mathematical, computational, electronic, the ability to present a seminar and produce really good powerpoint shows and posters, the ability to write a good, coherent project report - but above all a desire and ability to follow your curiosity to explore new areas. All of these skills should combine to make you very quickly adaptable to pursuing a career in any of a number of fields, and to do so with far more confidence and experience than you can hope for after the "ordinary degree".
Students occasionally see the time and cost of doing an Honours degree as time spent away from earning money and gaining experience in their first job - and this perception is, alas, sometime heightened by recruitment personnel from firms who may try to persuade you that "Honours is a waste of time", "you don't need it - we will give you all the training you need".
Admittedly, reading for an Honours degree is not something every graduate is suited to, so the decision to study for an Honours degree - like any other - is not something to take lightly. It will cost you time, money and effort to obtain one, but we believe that for those who have the academic ability, it is extremely worthwhile and valuable. Nor do we believe that it is a good idea to find a job for a few years and then come back to do Honours. Do it straight after your first degree, while you are in the academic frame of mind, and before the distractions of salary, owning a fancy car, buying a smart house, starting a family, dealing with income tax, and so on begin to dominate your life.
BSc(Hons) - our Honours degree in this Faculty - is usually awarded after an extra year's full- time study in one of the major subjects taken for the "ordinary" BSc or BSc(InfSys) degree, or in a closely related subject. The degree is always called BSc(Hons) - there is no BSc(InfSys)(Hons), for example.
Here is just one example of a BSc degree structure, followed by a choice of one of three Honours possibilities. There are, of course, many other ways of structuring a degree, but to get to your Honours year the choice of the undergraduate "pyramid" is critically important.
.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------. | Year 1 | Chemistry | Stats | Botany | Biology | Zoology | Geography | | | CHE 101 CHE 102 | STA 101 | BOT 102 | CEL 101 | ZOO 101 | EAR 101 GOG 102 | |--------+-------------------+-------------------+-------------------+-------------------' | Year 2 | Biochemistry | Microbiology | Zoology | | | BCH 201 BCH 202 | MIC 201 MIC 202 | ZOO 201 ZOO 202 | |--------+-------------------+-------------------+-------------------' | Year 3 | Biochemistry | Microbiology | | | BCH 301 BCH 302 | MIC 301 MIC 302 | `------------------------------------------------' .----------------------------. | Year 4 | Biochemistry | | | Honours | `----------------------------' or .----------------------------. | Year 4 | Microbiology | | | Honours | `----------------------------' or .----------------------------. | Year 4 | Biotechnology | | | Honours | `----------------------------'
The Rhodes Honours degree is a high quality degree. Departments can afford to be very fussy, and almost all are fussy. Thus, if you are contemplating doing Honours, aim for the very best results possible in your undergraduate majors. Normally a student is not accepted as an Honours student in this country without at least a lower second class pass in the appropriate major subject. So 50% in third year, or an "ACR", just won't cut it, sorry! Some Departments set even higher entrance limits than 60%, and beside this, some have a limit on the number of students they can accept. At Rhodes "space restrictions" currently apply to Economics, Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Microbiology and Environmental Science.
Warning: You cannot register for an Honours degree until you have qualified completely for an ordinary degree. There are no exceptions to this rule. So if you get to the end of third year, and are still missing your last credit like CHE 102 or ZOO 201 or whatever, you will not be accepted; you cannot be given permission to take the last outstanding credit at the same time.
Honours degrees may be taken in the following Science "Group A" subjects. Notice especially those marked * which are not offered as major subjects for the ordinary BSc degree but, obviously, require that you have majored in a fairly obviously related subject (indicated in parentheses)
*African Vertebrate Biodiversity (Zoology), Applied Mathematics, Biochemistry, *Biodiversity and Conservation,Biology, *Biotechnology (Biochem/Micro), Botany, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, *Electronics (Physics), Entomology, *Environmental Water Management (Geography), Environmental Science, Ergonomics, Geography, Geology, Human Kinetics and Ergonomics, Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, *Landscape Process and Management (Geography), *Marine Biology (Zoology/Botany/Ichthyology), Mathematical Statistics, Pure Mathematics, Microbiology, Physics, Psychology, *Spatial Development (Geography), *Telecommunications (Physics), Zoology.BSc(Hons) degrees may also be taken in Group B subjects by students who have a BSc in which one of those subjects is a major - for example Music or Information Systems.
In some subjects the academic year for Honours courses is slightly longer than for the ordinary degree. Honours degrees may also be taken part-time, but over not more than two years.
Lectures, of course, form an important component of an Honours year, as do seminars, the latter often given by the students themselves, demanding that the presenter learn skills and techniques like the proper use of PowerPoint. In most departments project work forms an integral and very important part of the course. As mentioned earlier, in some cases the project write-ups may even result in the production of peer-reviewed journal articles, which are very much sought after in CVs. Even when this does not happen, the projects can give one a good idea of what doing a research Master's degree in the same or a related field might be like.
And, of course, several departments organize highly enjoyable field trips to visit firms or do fieldwork research.
It is possible for a candidate to do a "Joint Honours" degree in two subjects, or to take one or more papers in another subject outside the main one. Opinions differ on whether this is a good idea. You may find that departments like Zoology, Entomology and Ichthyology will tell you that it is preferable to concentrate on one subject, and not dissipate your interests and energies, and indeed this is good advice for any subject. However, joint honours can work very well for combinations like Information Systems/Computer Science or Electronics/Computer Science or Maths/Physics, where the constituent subjects are closely related.
In a "joint honours" a student will take some topics in one subject and some in another. Sometimes students ask about "double honours", presumably with the idea of attempting to do the full gamut of courses from both subjects. A very few students have tried this, but the load is immense, and the prospect of getting (say) thirds in both rather than a first in one subject is enough to act as a serious discouragement. Not recommended!
A few departments write off some papers mid year; many save all the examinations until the end. There is a firm rule for Honours examinations which does not apply to ordinary degrees: if a candidate fails an Honours degree, it may only be repeated once, and then only after attending the course again in full. In practice, students who appear to their departments to be heading for failure are usually persuaded to withdraw. The high entrance requirement and the intensive teaching combine to make the failure rate very low - but be warned: students are not guaranteed a pass - they have to earn one and it takes a lot of worthwhile effort to do so.
Applications to do Honours must be made by November 30th - but preferably earlier - of the year before the course is to be taken, so that they may be considered as soon as your final examination results are known. Applications from strong candidates who have obtained, or are about to obtain, degrees at other universities are also welcomed by most departments. To apply you must complete a simple standard form, which is available from the Student Bureau. Such an application, if you already here, does not cost you money, nor does it actually bind or commit you to registration for the next year.
You are urged to consider the options open to you, and in particular to speak to the staff in the relevant departments to find out more about their programme, the projects, the possibilities of doing joint honours, and any funding opportunities that they might know about.
You may have good reasons for applying to do Honours at some place other than Rhodes University. For example, the department of your choice may be oversubscribed, or you may find that you can get a scholarship for study at another university, or you may wish to move to a place that offers specialities that we do not offer here. Changing universities may be problematic, however - most honours programmes are based on the idea that the students taking them will have studied the first three years of the subject locally, and the curriculum will have been designed accordingly. If you move elsewhere you may find that you have gaps in your knowledge (though, hopefully, not in your ability), and compensating for these might be awkward, as might the change to a different social set up and/or circle of friends. A change to another university to take advantages of special programmes or supervisors is probably easier and more sensible at the Master's level.
The University has "Honours Scholarships" of 50% of the academic fee for students who obtain a First in their degree for the subject they wish to read for Honours. Such scholarships will normally also be given to students who get an Upper Second in this subject, provided they obtain a first in their other major.
There are also various other generous scholarships for students who have done very well. Some of these are limited to certain groups of students, and they may also be open for competition to applicants from other Universities. Prospective Honours students are strongly recommended to visit our friendly postgraduate scholarship administrator, John Gillam, in the Dean of Research's Division in the main administration block. John will indicate which scholarships are available, and how you apply for them.
Honours students are not allowed to take up full-time employment while engaged on the course. Frequently, however, they are employed as part-time tutors or demonstrators in the department of their choice, and the university has a "Graduate Bursar" scheme which encourages this. Graduate Bursaries in 2010 for Honours students were worth R7600. In return, a bursary holder is expected to tutor and/or mark for about 6 hours/week in term time. The effective rate of pay is higher than undergraduate tutors earn, and higher than postgraduates can earn if they do not hold such a bursary. Each department only has a limited number of these bursaries to award (they are also awarded to Master's and PhD students).
The BSc(SofDev) degree is a four year degree that to all intents and purposes is simply a BSc(InfSys) ordinary degree, followed by a year comprising various courses in both of Computer Science and Information Systems. The choice of topics is a little more limited than for the usual Honours programme and, furthermore, students who register for this degree but who do not obtain 60% in each of CSC 3 and INF 3 are turned away with a BSc(InfSys) degree, and not allowed entry into the fourth year. Only two students have ever completed it - most students rightly deem the BSc(InfSys) + BSc(Hons) route to be more flexible.
Submit your comments or queries about this page to the Dean.