Bachelor of Arts (B.A., BA or A.B.), from the Latin Artium Baccalaureus, is an undergraduate bachelor's degree awarded for either a course or a program in either the liberal arts, the sciences or both.
A Bachelor of Arts degree program generally lasts three years in nearly all of the European Union countries as well as in Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, India, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, the Canadian province of Quebec, Singapore, South Africa and Switzerland, whereas it usually lasts four years in Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Canada (outside Quebec), Brazil, Iceland, Pakistan, Scotland, the Russian Federation and the United States  .
In the United States, the concept of "years" is based on credit hours. The "four years" expected to complete a B.A. degree is an estimate of time it should take to complete the amount of credit hours deemed necessary for matriculation by the institution accredited by the US Department of Education. Thus, a B.A. could be achieved in lesser time should the student achieve said credit hours in the shorter period of time. While difficult, it is not uncommon, particularly in the United States where the cost of a year's tuition at an institution of higher education is becoming increasingly more expensive.
Diplomas generally give the name of the institution, signatures of officials of the institution (generally the President or Rector of the University as well as the Secretary or Dean of the component college), the type of degree conferred, the conferring authority and the location at which the degree is conferred. Degree diplomas generally are printed on high quality paper or parchment, use ornate lettering and often include archaic terminology or even language (e.g. Latin).
In Britain and Ireland, usage varies: 19th-century universities and later usually distinguish between Arts and Science subjects through awarding either a BA or BSc depending on field of study. However, the older or Ancient Universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin (Trinity College Dublin), traditionally award BAs to undergraduates having completed the final examinations (e.g. Part II Tripos (Cambridge), Schools (Oxford), Moderatorship (Dublin)) in most subjects including the sciences. The full degree of MA is achieved usually 21 terms after matriculation. For many centuries, the Bachelor's degree was an intermediate step and was awarded for much of the work carried out in later times by secondary schools (when the school system developed). The name of the final secondary school exam in France comes from this, Le Baccalauréat.
A Bachelor of Arts in Britain or Ireland receives the designation BA for an ordinary/pass degree and BA (Hons) for an honours degree.
In universities in Australia and New Zealand, the single degree BA is taken full-time over a period of three years . To achieve an honours degree, an extra year must be completed. It is a requirement that students pursue at least one Major area of study and that subject area is undertaken at all three year-levels of the degree (first, second and third year). Depending upon the individual university's course structure, students will often choose to pursue a second Major; alternately, the remainder of the degree is taken up with a Minor area of study (study at first and second year levels) and other individual or stream-based subjects make up the degree.
Unlike other countries, students from Australia and New Zealand do not receive an overall grade for their Bachelor of Arts, with varying levels of 'honours'. Instead, students have the option, at the conclusion of their third year of study, and provided they possess a grade average of 75% or higher across their Major area, to undertake an Honours (or fourth) year. The Honours year is generally composed of a coursework component (including seminars or tutorials) and an original researched thesis or dissertation of 15–20,000 words.
It is the combined grades of these components that determine whether the student graduates with First, Second or Third Class Honours. Some universities, following the classifications of the British university system, also divide Second Class Honours between Division I and Division II. Additionally, those students who achieve an outstanding First Class Honours grade (usually requiring a mark of more than 90%) may be concomitantly awarded the University Medal, while those who do not meet the standards of the Honours year are awarded the normal Bachelor of Arts instead.
On graduation, students are permitted to append the post-nominal letters "BA" to their name; those who have successfully completed the Honours year may style themselves "BA (Hons)".