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investigate your choices, get the facts about university
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University Jargon Buster

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z


A is for…

Access to Learning Fund

This is available through the university and provides help for students on low incomes who may need extra financial support for their course and to stay in higher education.  The fund can help if students are in financial hardship; help with an unexpected financial crisis; and can help students who may be considering leaving their course because of financial difficulties.

Access Course

Access courses are designed to prepare mature students without other qualifications for entry into university or college and to provide the underpinning knowledge and skills needed to progress on to a degree or higher diploma course.

Accreditation of Prior Learning

For Adult Learners, this scheme can be used by universities to recognise your experiences in work and voluntary situations and qualifications you already have. Prior learning can be used either as an entry qualification or may be counted directly towards an HE qualification.

Admissions Tutors

Each department or faculty will have someone who is responsible for application forms and other enquiries about the admissions process.


People who have graduated (i.e. completed a course and gained a qualification) from a particular university are described as alumni. Being an alumnus can give you ongoing access to Careers Services. Most universities have active alumni associations that enable past students to keep in touch with each other and the university.

Athletic Union (Sports Union)

This is usually a part of the main Students Union and is organised by students to provide a wide range of sporting opportunities (from tennis to kickboxing) that will suit people of a whole range of abilities. Competitions are organised between universities too.


B is for…


The short title for Bachelor of Arts degrees e.g. BA Sociology, awarded to students who have successfully passed (graduated) their degree course in Arts subjects.


Bachelor of Education (Teaching degree), awarded to students who have successfully passed (graduated) their degree course in Education.


Bachelor of Engineering, awarded to students who have successfully passed (graduated) their degree course in Engineering.


Bachelor of Science e.g. BSc Computing, awarded to students who have successfully passed (graduated) their degree course in Science subjects.


A non repayable grant of money awarded to a student on application who fulfils specific criteria. Bursaries are often paid directly from HEIs.


C is for…


This usually refers to the buildings and surroundings of a university where the university is the principal or sole occupier of an area. Many of the universities founded in the 1960’s and built outside towns and cities are called “campus universities” e.g. Lancaster, York. Universities where the buildings are more integrated with the city or town such as Liverpool and Manchester do not have readily definable “campuses”.  True campus universities also include student accommodation.

Careers Services

These provide a very important service for all students whatever stage they are at in their course. They can help by providing guidance about a vast range of career possibilities which students might want to consider once they have completed their course. Many universities are also able to provide information about opportunities for part-time and temporary jobs during their time as a student. Often future employers will visit universities to recruit students for employment and the Careers Service will have details of these “milk round” events.


Credit Accumulation Transfer Scheme. Sometimes it is possible to gain credit for completing parts of a degree. If you have already studied to HND level, on a degree programme or for relevant professional qualifications before you start your degree, you may be able to transfer credits under the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme, CATS. This can allow greater flexibility and means that if you change course, move to another institution or take a break from study or change from full to part time, you can take the credits with you.


This is the system operated by UCAS to enable students to find places on courses that still have vacancies after the publication of the A level results. Although it is often for those who have not made the grades required by their chosen universities, it can also allow last minute applications to new institutions for those who obtain better results than they had expected. About 30,000 students go through the clearing system each year. For further information on the process visit

Combined Honours

A degree in which a student studies a combination of two or three different subjects e.g. History and Politics, English and Media.


D is for…


The Dean is a senior member of university staff who is responsible for all matters concerning the operation of a faculty or academic school, including teaching.


This is the amount of money that many students find they need to repay at the end of their studies. Most students do leave university with some debt – either to the Student Loans Company or to a bank. Student Loans do not have to be repaid until you reach a certain level of income - the amount varies each year according to average earnings. Bank overdrafts have to be repaid after graduating but banks usually allow this to be done over a period of time.


A qualification awarded by a university after the satisfactory completion of the equivalent of 3 years of full-time study at university level. Foundation degrees may be awarded after 2 years of study.

Dependants’ Grant

If you have a husband, wife or partner or another adult member of your family who depends on you financially, you may be eligible for this grant.  Adult learners can receive up to £2,510 per year (2008/09).  This help does not have to be repaid and is paid to you with your student loan.

Diploma of Higher Education

A qualification that may awarded by some universities after 2 years of study.


An extended essay or report usually between 7,000 and 15,000 words on a specific subject completed during a course of study. This involves in depth research and independent study.


E is for…


Essays are pieces of written work, which are submitted by students to the university and is one form of assessment. Essays usually have a set number of words (depending on the subject or tutor but often around 2000 words) and students are expected to answer a question, showing that they have done some research and are able to discuss the issues clearly and logically. Essays are more common with some subjects than others.


F is for…


A faculty is a number of academic departments that are grouped together for teaching, research and administrative purposes. For example, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Business and Law, etc. Sometimes they are also called Schools e.g. School of Health Studies etc


“Finals” is the name given to the final exams taken by students at the end of their study. In the past nearly all of the assessment for a degree was based on the outcome of these exams. Many degrees today rely less on the results from finals and tend to use assessment throughout the duration of the course.

Foundation Degree

Foundation degrees are designed with employers so that they fit with the world of work. Foundation degrees are usually for two years and are often part time as well as full time. Foundation degrees can be taught in colleges of further education or in universities.


Students beginning their time at a university are often referred to as Freshers and a Freshers Week may be organised to introduce them to university life. This can include social events as well as introduction to libraries and other resources.

Further Education (FE)

Further Education is for people aged 16 or above and provides education and courses in a wide range of subjects and levels. These can include A Levels, AS Levels, vocational courses such as hairdressing, BTECs and key skills. Some FE colleges offer university degrees.


G is for…


A graduate is a person who has been awarded a degree from a university or college. Whilst you are studying for a degree you will be known as an undergraduate. After the award of a degree you become a graduate. If you undertake further study after your degree (eg. Master's degree or PhD) you will be known as a postgraduate student.


H is for…


Halls of residence are blocks of student accommodation, which either provide meals or self-catering facilities. Priority for places in halls is usually given to first year students. There are usually a variety of other facilities like laundrettes, common rooms, TVs and cleaners. Sometimes there are shared amenities such as bathrooms and showers but some do have en-suite facilities.

Higher Education

Higher Education (HE) includes study at a university or college of higher education. Most people studying at this level are aiming for a degree, a Certificate of Higher Education, a HND or a Diploma of Higher Education


A HND or Higher National Diploma is a two year qualification which is a qualification in its own right or which can be used as a stepping stone to a degree. A HND can be converted into a degree by doing a one year top-up.


I is for…

Independent Student

You are classed as an independent student if one of the following apply:

  • You are 25 or over before the start of the academic year for which you are applying.
  • You have been married for at least two years before the start of the academic year for which you are applying for support. Your LEA will need to see your marriage certificate.
  • You have supported yourself for at least three years before the start of the academic year of your course. This includes any time when you: were in paid full-time employment; received income support or unemployment benefit or Jobseeker’s Allowance or were registered for unemployment; held a state studentship or similar award, for example from a research council; received incapacity benefits, invalidity pension or maternity allowance; received training under any scheme for the unemployed or other funding by any state authority or agency; or could not support yourself out of earnings because you had to care for a person under 18 who depended on you.
  • You have no living parents.


L is for…

Local Awards Office

Your local authority (council) has a section that deals with student awards. This section handles requests for funding for students wanting to go to university.


A lecture is usually a formal presentation of ideas and information by a member of the academic staff to a fairly large number of students. Many lectures are accompanied with student handouts, although you will generally be encouraged to make your own notes too. In recent times lectures have become less formal in many universities with lecturers encouraging active participation from students.

Lecturer (or Tutor)

Lecturers and tutors are members of university staff who are responsible for the teaching of university courses and in helping students to learn. Traditionally lecturers deliver lectures and tutors hold tutorials for smaller groups, but now the same person often does the two types of teaching.  Tutors may also have responsibility for a small group as a “personal tutor” to deal with any student support issues. 


M is for…

Mature Students

Generally a mature student is a student who does not enter Higher Education directly, or after a gap-year, from school or college.  Mature students often have wider experience of the workplace and life as a whole, or have spent some time away from study. Specific definitions of “mature students” may be applied when financial help is sought to support their studies.


A member of university staff or undergraduate student who discusses progress and problems with individual students.

Modular Courses

Some courses are divided into modules and students are required to pass a number of modules to complete a degree programme. To achieve a degree you will usually have to study a number of compulsory/core and optional/ elective modules.


N is for…


If you are ever unhappy about anything while you are a student, many universities have a Nightline service. Nightline is a confidential listening and information service run by students, for students. The aim of Nightline is to allow all students to talk about any aspect of their lives they wish to talk about and/or find information on any issues causing them concern. Nightline is entirely student run and all of the volunteers receive training in helping other students to cope with a whole range of issues.


P is for…


Many students spend time in the university library reading and researching for essays. As well as books, the library contains specialist periodicals or journals which are published on a regular basis and contain articles written mainly by university researchers. These are a useful and important source of information.

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

A person who has a degree and has undertaken years of research and has published their work and been assessed, may be awarded a PhD and can use the title of Doctor. This is a specialist degree that is usually awarded for at least 3 years of supervised, but original research work. All research students starting Ph.D. research would expect to hold a good degree first. A person with a Ph.D. degree uses the title “Dr”.


Plagiarism is when someone uses someone else’s writing or ideas and pretends that they are their own. Universities are very keen that students should not cheat in this way and so if you do any research then you should always reference your source of information.

Postgraduate Courses

Courses at a higher level that are usually only available for those who have already passed their degree. Postgraduate study can lead to a Masters degree or a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma or an Mphil.


Usually one of the senior academic staff within a department who becomes a professor as a result of specialist research and teaching. Some large departments will have more than one professor each with their own subject specialism.


A prospectus is a booklet (or CD-ROM or website) which gives the details of courses, activities and student life at a university or college. A university prospectus is normally designed to give information to anyone who wishes to study with that university and can be obtained from the Admissions Office.


Q is for…

Quality Assurance Agency (QAA)

An independent body which monitors standards in all universities and colleges.


R is for…

Reading Week

A period during a semester or term when students can concentrate on their individual learning and research. During these weeks there are usually no formal teaching sessions.


Research is a key feature of most university courses. Research involves collecting information about a subject from a variety of sources including books, journals and the Internet or by carrying out experiments or talking to people and analysis of this information.


S is for…

Sandwich Course

Sandwich courses are degree courses which include an extra year 'sandwiched' between the years of study. During the extra year, the student usually goes on work experience with an organisation or department in their subject field. If the degree is in languages, the extra year will usually involve a trip abroad e.g. a sandwich course in French may involve a year living and working in France.


Scholarships are grants (not repayable) of money made to a student. They are a little like a bursary, but scholarships are usually based on academic merit and excellence as opposed to financial need. Many more universities are offering scholarships as well as bursaries. However far fewer scholarships are given than bursaries.


Some universities divide the student year into 3 terms, some divide it into 2 semesters. A semester is half a study year.


A group of students meet to discuss a subject with a tutor; usually someone (or a group) prepares a paper for discussion and shares the research they have done and their opinions on the subject.  Seminars are more interactive than a lecture and are often student led.


Clubs where like-minded people can share their interests, beliefs, religion or sport.


Some students are given money by a business that may wish to employ that student in the future. Often, but not always, these students will be studying a vocational subject such as engineering or business studies.

Student Loans

These are low interest loans from the government to help students pay their living and study costs whilst they are at university.

Student Services

A department within the university which provides a range of support services to students including financial advice, accommodation, disability support, careers service, education guidance, counselling etc.

Students Union

Each university will have a Students Union (which will probably be part of the National Union of Students). The Union will represent the interests of students and works in their interest about a whole range of issues. The union can also provide the focal point of student activities. All students are entitled to an NUS card which provides many discounts for students.


T is for…

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees cover the cost of your study and may vary depending on what and where you study.  From 2007, universities can charge students up to £3,145 for fees. Students can apply for a “tuition fee loan” to cover the amount they will be charged.  This is then paid directly to the university. The “tuition fee loan” is paid back after the student has graduated and is earning over a certain amount. 

Tutor (or Lecturer)

Members of staff responsible for teaching students in universities and for assisting students with their learning.


A small group meets to discuss with each other and their tutor the work they are doing and more general course issues. Tutorials can also be on an individual basis with a student discussing their work with a tutor. 


U is for…


Pronounced Yew-Cass. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service for the UK. Most students apply for full-time courses through UCAS although there are some exceptions.

UCAS Extra

If you used all your five choices on your UCAS application and you don't manage to secure an offer, you have a second chance to apply for a place, using UCAS Extra. The service starts mid-March and runs until the end of June. UCAS writes to let you know if you are eligible to use Extra.


Someone studying either full or part time for a first degree including Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Education (BEd),
LLB (Law) etc.


V is for…


Vocational courses are career specific.  This means the course relates to a certain area of work, e.g. teaching, law, accounting, nursing etc


The Vice-Chancellor is the Chief Executive Officer of the university and is the most senior member of the university staff.