Fun with post-nominals

One of the entitlements a degree gives you is the ability to use post-nominals after your name. In the case of my recent Open University degree an email I’ve received today tells me that once the degree is conferred on me (31st December) and I have received my certificate, I will be able to put BSc (Hons) Psych (Open) after my name.

Except, of course, that very few people do so – especially if they have other post-nominals from other academic study and professional memberships. It would just make the whole process of writing your name too long and tedious.

The use of post-nominals (or not) also seems to be profession dependent and country dependent too. Apparently Americans only ever go for a single set of post-nominals and the ones they use are meant to be the ones which are most appropriate for a specific situation. We British apparently go in for not only lots and lots of post-nominals if we have them, but also lots of flowery stuff before our names too (such as His Excellency, the Right Honourable Dr. … etc.)

Debrett’s provides advice which includes the statement:


Other degrees [anything that is not a DD, MD, MS, BD, MB, BS, LLD or DSC, or Dr. before your name] are seldom used in social correspondence, and BA and MA are never used in social correspondence, but they may be included in a formal list.

No mention of what to do with a BSc at all, but I suspect this advice was written for an American audience. Personally, the only time I’ve ever used my other BSc post-nominals (or BSc (Hons) CompSci (Warw) to use its official designation) has been tongue-in-cheek on Christmas or Birthday cards sent to my friends from Warwick University! In other words, on social correspondence. What do Debrett’s know anyway?

Oxford University offer slightly different advice about the use of post-nominals for academic degrees in their media guidance. They make the point that degrees should always be written without points – i.e. BSc or BA, rather than B.Sc. or B.A. They also say that (Hons) and the subject – e.g. Psych or CompSci should not be used and so my first degree should be written as BSc (Warw). Helpfully, they also provide a list of official abbreviations for British and Irish Universities – e.g. Warwick is Warw, Oxford is Oxf. The Open University (to give its correct title) does not have an abbreviation listed, so the rule: “names are to be given in full for universities not in this list” would therefore appear to apply. So my new degree should be written as BSc (The Open University) according to this guidance, rather than BSc (Open). I think I’ll stick with “Open”, however!

Now, if I want to use both my Warwick and OU degrees together, they say that “same-level degrees will be arranged in sets and in alphabetical order of the name of the university“, so that would make me BSc (Open), BSc (Warw).

I also have some professional post-nominals to add. I am currently a MBCS and CITP and according to an email I received yesterday, I should be elected as an MBPsS on Monday. Oxford’s guidance on this is that these should “be included”. Debrett’s says that these should come after the degrees, but provides no clue as to order – but does suggest that which ones are used should be situation dependent. I think if I’m going to put everything down in full, I’ll go for MBPsS MBCS CITP as it looks neater!

So there we are. At some point in the next few weeks I’ll formally be Tim Holyoake BSc(Open) BSc (Warw) MBPsS MBCS CITP Esq. I get the Esq. too because I’m a man. Take that, Chodorow! But with the exception of my CV and Linkedin profile (and the odd Christmas and Birthday card) you won’t find me using them in public in any combination. And certainly never all together!

I haven’t changed – but if any commercial or government organisation really, really upsets me (and I’m thinking of you NS&I, Barclays and East Midlands Airport to name but three), I’m going to demand that they put all of those post-nominals into my ‘name’ field on their database. It will serve them right. Just imagine how much hassle it will be for them to accommodate my request if they’ve had particular software providers I could name (but won’t) setting up their systems for them …


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Reader Comments

  1. SH


    That is very interesting, how does “BSc(Warw), BSc (Open) MBPsS MBCS CITP Esq” translate onto the CV then ?

    From your linkedin profile :

    The Open University 2007 – 2011
    The Open University 1990 – 1990
    University of Warwick 1982 – 1985

    Wouldnt it be neater and concise if you just had “BSc (Warw) 1985, BSc (Open) 2011” on the CV ?

    • tim

      You’re right! I haven’t got around to tweaking my LinkedIn profile yet … one of the many things I’ll probably get around to between Christmas and the New Year!


  2. SH

    The Oxford media guidance actually makes some really good recommendations, I like how concise and neater it is listing your qualifications “BSc (Warw) 1985, BSc (Open) 2011” then the full :

    Computer Science, BSc (Hons), University of Warwick, 1982-1985
    Psychology, BSc (Hons), Open University, 2007-2011

    And if you included your results this would had taken a few lines. Its definitely a tip I will use, if a job description requires a named degree/result then it can be mentioned in the covering letter.

    Guess the only thing missing now from your post-nominals is a MA/MSc 🙂


    You worked extremely hard for your title. You have every right to use it. Life is short and you may not have too many privileges. Go ahead! Enjoy every bit of it, especially your title, and don’t apologise! Sure feels good!

  4. Arnold

    I think Cambridge, just to be different as usual, go with chronological order. That’s something that I can just about cope with…

    Eur Ing John Arnold Stewart BSc (Hons) Comp Sci (Belf), MBCS, DMS (Ulst), MBA (Ulst), CEng, DipM (CIM), CITP, Dip French (Open), Dip Spanish (Open), BA (Hons) MLS

    Incidently, did you notice the latest money-pinching effort on the OU’s behalf? They’re printing the degree/diploma certificates on cheapo paper rather than the heavy weight almost-parchment stuff of a few years ago.

  5. T

    No mention of what to do with a BSc at all, but I suspect this advice was written for an American audience

    Why would Debrett’s be writing for an American audience?

    I note though that it is only modern universities which use the new-fangled abomination ‘BSc’. All first degrees from Cambridge are BA/MA.

    • tim

      Thanks for the comment.

      On Debretts, why not?

      On first degrees – I don’t see that it matters, but it is ridiculous that Oxbridge award their own BAs an MA after no further study!

      • T

        On Debretts, why not?

        Well, it’s a British company so absent any other factors I would presume they were writing for a British audience. I would also note that on their website pages, eg they use the correct spelling of ‘colour’; if they were writing for a primarily American audience I would expect them to use the wrong spelling.

        it is ridiculous that Oxbridge award their own BAs an MA after no further study

        Not if you know the history. What’s ridiculous is they the thing modern universities call an ‘MA’ has nothing to do with the thing Oxbridge calls an MA, and as Oxbridge was doing it for hundreds of years first…

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