Jargon buster A-Z


A member of the university's teaching staff, such as a tutor or lecturer.

Academic year

The period when students attend university each year. This varies between institutions but is usually from September to June.


The Admissions team are the people at the university who review an application to study and make an offer of a place.


Perhaps better known as 'coursework', this is a task set during the course. It may be written or more practical in nature, depending on the course being studied. Students usually work on an assignment outside of structured teaching time; some assignments might be joint projects while others are completed individually.

Bachelors degrees

Usually abbreviated to BA, BEng or BSc for Bachelor of Arts, Engineering or Science, or LLB for Bachelor of Laws, these are undergraduate degrees that are awarded at the end of three or four years of study.

Blended learning

This style of learning and teaching became more common during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a mix of online and face-to-face teaching, introduced to ensure safety, with mainly large groups being taught online.


The buildings and grounds where a university or college is based. Some universities have everything on one site and are referred to as 'campus universities'.


An alternative way of applying to university. Students who don't have an offer to study can apply through Clearing. It opens from early July, with the main activity following results day in August.

Conditional offer

An offer made by the Admissions team which is dependent on students reaching certain grades in their exams. It is made before students have their exam results.

Deferred entry

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


Normally a long report, written in the final year of study, and based on research carried out by the student.


This term refers to how suitable a person is for employment. University is a great opportunity for students to improve their employability by increasing their skills, knowledge and practical experience.


Enrolment is the formal process of starting at a university. Before they arrive, students may be expected to complete some parts of their enrolment online. Communications from the university in the weeks before they start will explain this.

Entry requirements

The grades or qualifications a student needs for their chosen course. They vary for different courses, and you can find details on the university's website or in its prospectus.

FE – Further Education

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

Foundation year 

Some students may need to study for an extra year at foundation level to gain the knowledge and skills they need for degree-level study. This may be offered as part of a four-year degree course or as a separate, standalone foundation degree. For the second option, students would then need to apply again for a bachelors degree.

Freshers' Week

At the beginning of a student's first term at university, this event is designed to help them settle into university life, get to know fellow students and find out more about activities and opportunities available to them.

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.


Halls of residence

Purpose-built student accommodation, often arranged in flats. Students share a kitchen and other facilities; rooms can be en suite or have a shared bathroom. Halls are a popular option for first year students; some universities offer the option to live in halls every year.

HE - Higher Education

This is education and training for students of 18 years and older, leading to a qualification at level 4 or above. That might be a Higher National Diploma (HND), foundation degree or degree apprenticeship. It might also refer to a higher degree such as a masters or PhD.

Home students

Students who are based in the UK when they apply to university and meet residence requirements.

Honours degree (Hons)

Normally a first degree, which takes three or four years of full-time study to complete. An honours degree requires extra modules/units to be studied in comparison to an Ordinary degree. These are often in the form of a dissertation.


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

Masters degree (MA, MSc, MPhil, MEd)

A taught course which allows students to extend their learning for one to two years after they have graduated from their first (bachelors) degree.

Mature student

A student aged 21 or over when they start their course.


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 and accommodation, and speak to staff and students.


Personal tutor

A personal tutor provides academic advice and support to a student throughout their time at university, to help them develop and reach their goals.

Placement year

A year of work experience or study 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 study

Advanced-level study for students who have completed their first (bachelors) degree. This could be a postgraduate certificate or diploma, masters degree or PhD (doctorate).


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


Half of the academic year; similar to a school term, this is the period when students attend university for lectures, tutorials and seminars.


A smaller teaching session where a lecturer and students meet to discuss aspects of the course or a specific topic being covered in lectures. (See also Tutorial)


A big part of university life, societies are clubs or groups where students meet to share their interests or discover new ones. Usually co-ordinated by the students' union, they cover sport, culture, academic subjects, hobbies, religion and much more.

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 and all students become a member when they enrol at university. Unions represent students and provide support and advice. They also play a key role in the social side of university, organising Freshers' week to help students settle in and co-ordinating clubs and societies.


A points system that gives a numerical value to post-16 qualifications such as A-levels, T-levels and BTEC qualifications. Many universities use tariff points to express entry requirements for their courses.


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. These are £9,250 per year for full-time undergraduate students from the UK. However, students don't need to pay these fees up front, and they can take out a tuition fee loan from the Student Loans Company. They start to repay this once they have graduated and are earning above a certain amount.


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) processes applications for courses at universities and colleges in the UK.

UCAS Extra

A service that enables students to add another choice if they have applied to five universities, received decisions and weren't accepted or declined the offers. This service runs from the end of February to early July, when Clearing opens.

Unconditional offer

An offer to study which is not dependent on students reaching certain grades in their exams, or where they already have their exam results.


Undergraduate study is the first level of higher education. A student on a bachelors degree course is an undergraduate student.