Jargon buster A-Z

Academic year

This refers to the time when students attend university. This tends to be from September to June the following year.


The admissions team process course applications and will make offers of a place on the course.


This is a community of former students who have graduated and keep in touch with their university through the Alumni Association.


This is an optional UCAS service that allows students who have met and exceeded the conditions of their firm choice to look at alternative courses. It is available from A-level results day until the end of August

Applicant Days

These are tailored days for applicants to gain a greater understanding of what studying on the course will be like.

BA / BEng / BSc

These are the abbreviations for Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Science.

Bachelors Degree

A bachelors degree is the qualification you achieve after successfully completing a three (or four) year programme of degree-level study.


The campus refers to the buildings and grounds where a university or college is based.


Clearing is a system that operates after A-level results are published. It allows prospective students without a university place to apply for courses at universities where there are still vacancies. 

Conditional Offer

This is an offer made by the admissions team which is dependent on students reaching certain grades in their exams.

Deferred entry

A student can apply for a university place but request that they start it the following year, deferring entry.


A dissertation is normally a long report, written in the final year of study, and is based on research undertaken by the student.


This term refers to how suitable a person is for employment.


Enrolment is the formal process of a student starting at a university. 

Entry requirements

These are the grades or qualifications a student needs for their chosen course. Entry requirements vary for different courses. 


This is a UCAS service that enables students to add another choice if they have received decisions from all five universities they have applied for and weren’t accepted or declined the offers.

FE – Further Education

Further Education refers to courses in a wide range of subjects and levels that are not part of higher education.

Foundation degree 

This is a course designed to prepare students who have acceptable qualifications for general university entry, but don't have the appropriate level or coverage for a specific degree course.

Gap year

Students can opt to take a gap year either before they start university or straight after graduation. They usually choose to travel or work during this year.


This is the term used for a person who has completed and passed his or her degree and been awarded their qualification.


The graduation ceremony is where a student formally collects their degree. You can graduate without attending the ceremony (although you do need to have your qualification confirmed).

HE - Higher Education

This is education and training for students of 18 years and older, who have the right entry requirements.

Home students

This applies to students who are based in the UK at the time of application to the institution and meet residence requirements.

Honours degree (Hons)

This is a degree taken at university. It is normally a first degree which lasts three or four years. An honours degree requires extra modules/units to be studied in comparison to an Ordinary degree, often in the form of a dissertation.

Key skills

Key skills are the skills which will be required in the world of work and include communication, IT, literacy, numeracy, team work, problem solving and self-management.

Lecture / lecturer

A lecture is a lesson given by an academic member of staff (lecturer), usually to a large number of students.

Masters degree (MA, MSc, MPhil, MEd)

Masters degrees are taught courses which allow students to extend their learning for one to two years after they have graduated from their first (Bachelors) degree.

Mature student

This applies to students who are over 21 when they start their course.


A module is a unit of study that explores a specific area within a subject.

Open Days

Open Days are a great opportunity to look around a university, its facilities, accommodation and speak to staff and students.

Overseas students/International students

This is a term used to describe students who come to the UK from outside the EU.

Personal tutor

A personal tutor is closely connected to a student’s programme of study and takes an active interest in the personal and professional development of an individual student and offers a source of guidance.


This is a specialist degree available for students that have already achieved a first degree.

Placement year

This is a year of either work experience or study placement in another institution, which can be an optional or compulsory part of a university course. Students can opt to take their placement in another country.

Postgraduate / Postgraduate Course

A postgraduate student has completed his/her first (Bachelors) degree and has progressed onto a more advanced course at university (a postgraduate course).


A prospectus is a publication (print or electronic), which provides information about degree courses, the university and student life.

Halls of residence

Purpose-built student accommodation where lots of first year students live.


Some universities divide the academic year into two semesters. These are blocks of study. (See also Terms)


A seminar is a small group of students and a lecturer who meet to discuss aspects of the course or a specific topic being covered in lectures. (See also Tutorial)

Single Honours

This is an honours degree course in which a student studies a single subject.


Societies are groups where like-minded people can share their interests, beliefs, religion or sport.

Student loans

Loans are available from the Student Loans Company to help students pay their living and study expenses while they are at university.

Students' Union

Every university has a Students' Union. The Union represents the interests of students across a whole range of issues. The Union also provides a focal point for social activities on campus for all students.


The Tariff system is a points system for entry into Higher Education, operated by UCAS.


Some universities teach three terms in an academic year, similar to school terms. (See also Semesters)

Tuition fees

Students have to pay tuition fees for their course. In 2021 the tuition fees for undergraduate home students will be £9,250 per year.


Tutors are the members of staff responsible for teaching students in universities and for assisting them with their learning. (See also Lecturer)


Tutorials can be on an individual or group basis. They are an opportunity for students to discuss their work, or any issues with a tutor. (See also Seminar)


The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is responsible for processing applications for courses at universities and colleges in the UK.

Unconditional offer

This is an offer made by the admissions team which is not dependent on students reaching certain grades in their exams, or where they already have their exam results.


An undergraduate is a student who is studying for a first (Bachelors) degree.


The term used for the holidays within the academic year, such as Christmas, Easter and summer.