User's Guide to the General Regulations:

2017 / 2018 Academic Session
Your Path is: Home / Modules and Credits

What is a module?

  • A module is a self-contained unit of learning, teaching and assessment. 
  • The volume of educational activity is expressed in hours of student effort. 
  • This is linked directly to the credit value of the module. 
  • Information about a module is contained in the online descriptor for that module.

(General Regulation 1.1)



What is a module descriptor?

A module descriptor captures information about a module for the purpose of conveying that information to staff and students.  It will be available online. The module descriptor should, at a minimum, include the following:

  • The School and Module Co-ordinator responsible for the module.
  • Credit value, level, semester, learning outcomes, curriculum and description of the module.
  • The means by which the learning outcomes will be assessed.
  • A n indication of the expected student workload.
  • Any module dependencies (pre-requisites, required modules, co-requisites, incompatible modules, exclusions, requirements or recommendations).
  • Information on remediation opportunities. 

(General Regulation 1.9)

What is a credit?

Each module has an ECTS credit value.

  • This is a standardised way of representing the amount of student effort, the achievement of learning outcomes and educational activity associated with a module. The ECTS, European Credit Transfer System, was developed to facilitate educational mobility for students and inter-institutional cooperation amongst higher education institutions within the European Union.
  • UCD utilises the ECTS credit system, with a strong emphasis on student effort and the achievement of learning outcomes as a mechanism for determining the award of credit.



The volume of hours associated with ECTS can vary, recognising that students learn at different speeds, and the key indicator for the award of credit is the achievement of learning outcomes (and not just an accumulation of hours). Therefore, a standard 5-credit UCD module represents 100-150 hours of student effort.

(General Regulation 1.2)





How many credits does each module have in undergraduate programmes?

Undergraduate modules are normally 5 credits. 

  • Larger modules of 7.5 and 10 credits also exist. Certain types of modules, such as research, dissertations, project-based, clinical or work placement modules, and modules at level 3 or higher, may have credit values of 15 or 20 credits, subject to approval by the University Programmes Board. 
  • Undergraduate dissertations and research modules will have multiples of 5 credits up to a maximum of 30 credits.

(General Regulation 1.3)



How many credits does each module have in graduate taught programmes?

Graduate taught modules may be 2.5, 5, 7.5, 10, 15 or 20 credits. 

Graduate taught dissertations and research project modules will be multiples of 5 credits.



(General Regulation 1.3)



How will credit value for dissertations and research activity be calculated for undergraduate and graduate taught programmes?

Dissertations and research projects at undergraduate and graduate taught programme levels will bear credit in multiples of 5 credits based on total student effort required.

The credit value of a research project, dissertation or other assessable research activity associated with undergraduate and graduate taught programmes should be calculated as follows:

  • 15 weeks (one semester) full-time research merits 30 credits
  • 30 weeks (two semesters) full-time research activity merits 60 credits
  • 45 weeks (one calendar year) full-time research activity merits 90 credits

Where research activity associated with undergraduate and graduate taught programmes is conducted on a part-time basis, or combined with taught activity, the credit value of the research activity must reflect the actual time devoted by the student to research.


(General Regulation 1.10) 

What does student effort include?

Student effort is all time spent on a module, including

  • Lecture / tutorial / seminar / laboratory contact hours
  • Work required on assignments and projects
  • Time spent in independent study or research
  • Time spent studying for and taking assessments
  • Any additional time and effort expected of a student registered to that module

Time spent on compulsory clinical or professional placements may also be assigned credit subject to approval by the relevant Programme Board and review by the University Programmes Board.


(General Regulation 1.2)















What is a level?

The level of a module is an indication of the level of difficulty of the learning outcomes and the material that will be encountered.  Levels generally give a broad indication of the stage when a student is likely to take the module, although this is not always the case.  A student, for instance, may take level 2 or level 4 modules as well as level 3 modules in Stage 3. 

(General Regulation 1.4)


  • Module level and programme level

The level of the module also corresponds with the level of the programme.  For instance, an Honours Bachelor Degree should consist mainly of level 1, 2 and 3 modules, while a Masters Degree should consist mainly of level 4 modules.


Additional information relating to UCD Level Descriptors can be found here


  • Module level restrictions for Honours Bachelor Degrees

Level 0: 10 ECTS credits maximum

Level 2: a minimum of 100 ECTS credits must be at level 2 or above*

Level 3: a minimum of 40 ECTS credits must be at level 3 or above


* These modules may include the 40 ECTS credits of Level 3 modules that are also required.
(General Regulation 3.1)


  • Choosing your elective modules – some FAQs


I am a first year (Stage 1) and want to choose a Level 3 module as one of my electives. Is this permissible?

Yes. There are no level restrictions for elective modules. However, you should carefully consider the level of difficulty and expected learning outcomes of the module before your register to it. You may have to register to this module manually through your Programme Office.



I am a Stage 2 (or Stage 3) student and want to take a Level 0 module as one of my electives. Is this permissible?

Yes, provided you have not already taken 10 ECTS credits of Level 0 modules (10 is the maximum number of Level 0 modules).



I am a Stage 2 (or Stage 3) student and want to take a Level 1 module as one of my electives. Is this permissible?



There are technically no level restrictions for elective modules. However, you must take at least 100 ECTS credits of Level 2 or higher modules, 40 of which must be at Level 3 or higher, in order to graduate. Thus, if you are on a 180 ECTS credit programme, the maximum Level 0 and Level 1 credits you may take are 80 (bearing in mind the restrictions regarding Level 0 modules).


You should also keep in mind that the level of all of your modules will appear on your transcript – a Level 1 module will stand out in the latter stage(s) of your programme where most of your modules will be at Levels 2, 3 and 4. While it may be appropriate to take Level 1 electives in subject areas where you have no prior learning, you should give careful consideration to taking Level 1 electives in one of your major or minor subject areas.

What is a stage?


Undergraduate students

A student will progress through an undergraduate programme in stages. An undergraduate stage is normally completed when a student has successfully accumulated 60, 90, 120 or 180 credits.

For full-time undergraduate students, a 60-credit stage will normally be completed in one academic year (two teaching semesters).  Part-time students may progress to Stage 2 after completing 60 credits over a number of teaching semesters.  Programme specifications will define the credit requirements of each stage.

(General Regulation 1.5)

Graduate taught students

Graduate taught programmes are normally completed in one stage.  However, a graduate taught programme may be designated as a two-stage programme with the approval of the University Programmes Board.

(General Regulation 1.5)

What are module dependencies?

Module dependencies specify the prior or parallel learning that is required of students in order to undertake the module.  The purpose of dependencies is to ensure that students are likely to be capable of achieving the learning outcomes of the module, and that students do not gain credit more than once for the same learning outcomes.  Types of module dependencies include:

  • Pre-requisites
  • Required modules
  • Co-requisites
  • Incompatible modules
  • Exclusions
  • Requirements
  • Recommendations

Registration to a module will not be permitted unless pre-requisites, required modules and co-requisites have been satisfied and any other requirements prescribed by the School or Programme Board have been fulfilled. 

(General Regulation 1.6)

What are pre-requisites and required modules?

Pre-requisites indicate that a student must pass a particular module, generally in an earlier stage, or achieve the required learning outcomes of that module in an approved equivalent module, in order to register to the module.  Pass means that the student must receive a passing grade of A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D or D- in order to register to the module.    

indicates that a student must have taken, but not necessarily passed, a particular module or have attempted the required learning outcomes of that required module in an approved equivalent required module, in order to register to another module .  Required modules are slightly less restrictive than the pre-requisites as they only require a student to have taken a module. It does not matter what grade they received in the module.
(General Regulation 1.6)


PLEASE NOTE: No modules taken in any stage in UCD are passable by compensation.

  • An E grade received for any module registered to and taken in 2014/2015 or earlier, that was eligible to compensate, will still be eligible to compensate in 2016/2017. 
    (General Regulation 5.7)


Additional information for staff on compensation can be accessed at: http://www.ucd.ie/registry/assessment/staff_info/compensation%20for%20staff.html

What is the difference between pre-requisites and required modules and when should they be used?

Pre-requisites vs. required modules:  Module coordinators should be careful when designating modules as pre-requisites vs. required modules since the choice could have an impact on a student’s ability to progress while carrying modules.  Where a student fails a pre-requisite in one stage for a module in the next stage, the student cannot register to the next stage module.  Where the module from the previous stage had been designated a required module and not a pre-requisite module, the student would be able to take the next stage module. 

The use of pre-requisites and required modules is subject to review by the University Programmes Board.

Schools and Programme Boards are urged not to use pre-requisites or required modules unless there are valid educational reasons for so doing.  Such module dependencies are restrictive (i.e. they block registration) and should only be used to signal mandatory learning that the student must have achieved in advance.  Prior learning that is advisable, but not mandatory, should be expressed as a recommendation within the module descriptor.

(General Regulation 1.6)


What are co-requisites?

Co-requisites indicate that a student must either have taken or be taking a particular module at the same time as the module (i.e. same semester), or have achieved the required learning outcomes of that module in an approved equivalent module, in order to register to another module.  A co-requisite is meant to identify a module or modules that are interrelated or integrated with a particular module.  Co-requisites should only exist in a unidirectional manner, so that where X is a co-requisite of Y, Y is not a co-requisite of X.   Such interdependence would imply that neither was a stand alone module. 

(General Regulation 1.6)




What are incompatible modules and exclusions and what is the difference?

Incompatible modules have significant overlapping outcomes - students cannot earn credit for both modules.  Where a student has taken a module listed as incompatible, they will not be able to register to the other module. 

(General Regulation 1.6)

Exclusions indicate information about incompatibilities arising from prior learning at higher, further or secondary education, e.g. “This module is for students who have not studied French previously”.  Students cannot be awarded credit for the module where they have already achieved similar educational outcomes as specified in the exclusion field of the module descriptor.  

(General Regulation 1.6)

What are module requirements and recommendations and when should they be used?

Requirements indicate the level of prior learning, other than specific pre-requisite or co-requisite modules, required for a module. This could include a minimum performance at second level in a specified subject, e.g. a minimum grade achieved at Leaving Certificate in a particular subject, or a minimum overall performance in the earlier stages of the programme expressed as a required GPA.  Module requirements will be expressed in the module descriptor as free text.   Module requirements do not block registration. 

(General Regulation 1.6)

Recommendations indicate prior learning that is recommended but not required, and may include a recommendation to take or have taken certain modules or to have achieved general prior learning.  Recommendations can be used to provide information to students about the underpinning knowledge that will facilitate the successful completion of the module.  Recommendations will be expressed in the module descriptor as free text.  Module recommendations do not block registration. 

(General Regulation 1.6)

Who is responsible for a module?

The responsibility for a module lies with the single School that is assigned this responsibility by the College. 

  • Within a given programme, Schools remain responsible for the overall design, delivery, assessment, quality assurance and enhancement of individual modules, and the academic welfare of students enrolled to those modules.

The School will name a Module Co-ordinator within that School to be responsible for the design, delivery and assessment of the module. The Module Co-ordinator must be a full-time or part-time academic member of staff on a fixed or permanent contract, and acts as principal examiner for the module. The responsibilities of a Module Co-ordinator may not normally be delegated and such delegation must be approved by the Head of School.

  • Where a module is delivered by more than one School or has more than one individual involved in co-ordinating the module, one of the Schools and one Module Co-ordinators must assume primary responsibility for the module.  The Module Co-ordinator should be identified in the module descriptor.
  • Where a module is delivered from outside the University, a named UCD Module Co-ordinator will be responsible for liaising with the relevant individual in the institution delivering the module.

(General Regulation 1.7)

How should a School allocate student places for a module?

The School must specify the number of places available for a particular module, based on the resources available to deliver the module, and subject to the approval of the College.   A module must be able to accommodate all students on any programme that has the module as a core in its programme structure.

(General Regulation 1.8)

How should a School allocate elective places for a module?

All undergraduate modules must make a number of elective places available to students from other programmes unless they are deemed exempt from doing so by the University Programmes Board.  Clinical/work placement modules are exempt from the requirements to offer elective places. These modules will normally be in a professional or clinical environment. Modules delivered off-campus  (campus refers to Belfield and Blackrock) are exempt from the requirement to offer elective places.
(General Regulation 3.9.4)


A module may also reserve places for students in certain programmes that may want to take the module as an elective. 


Where a School believes that it should restrict the number of places available on grounds other than the availability of resources, they should present their case to the relevant Programme Board and the University Programmes Board before the end of the session preceding that in which the restriction will operate.

(General Regulation 1.8)