University Jargon Buster

Feel like university terminology is confusing? Join the gang! If you're struggling to get your head around all things university, we've put together a handy A-Z to help you find the definitions you're looking for.



A university tutor or lecturer. A bit like your school or college teacher.

Academic year

The university year. This usually starts around September/October and ends in June/July, but can vary from place to place so it's best to check.


The admissions team process student applications and make course offers.


Former students who have graduated and keep in touch with the university.

Applicant Taster Days

An opportunity for applicants to experience a subject-specific taster day and gain a greater insight into their chosen course.


Bachelor's degree

The qualification an undergraduate achieves after completing their undergraduate studies. This is usually three to four years of study.

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

The qualification associated with undergraduate degrees in subject areas such as arts, social sciences and humanities.

Bachelor of Engineering (BEng)

The qualification associated with undergraduate degrees in the subject area of engineering.

Bachelor of Laws (LLB)

The qualification associated with Law undergraduate degrees which allows progression onto further professional training within the Law field.

Bachelor of Science (BSc)

The qualification associated with undergraduate degrees in subject areas such as science and some social sciences.


A bursary is financial help offered by the university or Student Finance. These are usually granted based on personal circumstances to reward achievement or help those in financial need. Bursaries are a type of grant that do not have to be paid back... free money!



A campus refers to the grounds and buildings where the university is located.


Clearing allows prospective students without a university place to apply whilst spaces remain available. Clearing begins from July through to September.

Combined or joint honours degrees

A type of degree that allows you to study two subjects equally (50/50) which forms one degree.


A student who lives at home and travels to university.

Conditional offer

A university offer that depends on you achieving certain grades or meeting set criteria before your place can be confirmed.


Deferred entry

You can choose to apply to university but request to start the following year. Students who wish to take a gap year will often defer their entry to ensure they have a place at university and opt for a deferred start.


A degree is an academic course and qualification studied for and attained at university (e.g. bachelor's degree or master's degree).


A dissertation is a long essay on a subject chosen by you. A dissertation is usually written within the final year of study and is worth a significant part of the final degree classification (grade).

Distance learning

When students study from home using the resources provided by the university (often online resources).

Degree classification

Your degree classification is the final grade achieved after studying a degree course. Degrees are classified out of 100: 3rd - 40 to 40. 2:2 - 50 to 59. 2:1 - 60 to 69. 1st - 70 or above.



Employability refers to the suitability of an individual for employment. It can also be a word universities use to tell you about the ways in which they can help you get a job by adding to your CV.


This is when a student officially starts at a university and is given all essential information (i.e. timetable, ID card, student documents). Sometimes enrolment can be completed online.

Entry requirements

The grades or qualifications required for being accepted at university. Different universities and courses will have different entry requirements.


Firm choice

The applicant's first choice of university/course offer on UCAS.

Foundation degree

Foundation degrees offer an alternative route to university for students who may not meet the course entry requirements, or just need a confidence boost. Foundation degrees last for one year and usually, students progress onto the same subject bachelor's degree after successful completion.


A casual name for a first-year student at university.

Further Education (FE)

The level of education after GCSEs studied at 6th form or college. Qualifications include A levels, AS levels, BTEC and vocational qualifications.



A student who has completed their degree course and has received their qualification.


A celebration ceremony for students that have completed their course.

Gap year

Some students take a year out before going to university or after they have graduated. Students will often use this time to travel or gain work experience.


Insurance choice

An applicant's second choice of university/course offer on UCAS. You typically put this down as a reserve choice just in case you do not get into your first (firm) choice.

International students

Students from outside the EU who study in the UK.



A lesson delivered by an academic usually to a large number of students - so a bit like an assembly. Students are expected to take notes and digest the information in self-led learning time or during their seminars.


Academic staff at a university who teach the courses - like a teacher.


Maintenance loan

A loan provided by Student Finance to support students with living costs (i.e. accommodation, travel and food).

Master's degree

A higher level degree that allows a student to study a topic in more detail, after their undergraduate degree. For example Masters of Engineering (MEng). Master's degrees are a Level 7 qualification and usually last for one to two years (e.g MBA, MA, MSc, Med)

Mature student

A student who is 21 or over when they start university.


A unit of study that explores a specific area - think of it like covering a particular topic at school or college. University courses can contain set and optional modules, which would allow you to tailor your course to your interests.


An assessment of your household income conducted by the student loans company when they work out how much student finance you might be entitled to.


National Union of Students (NUS)

The NUS is a group of organisations that support and represent the interests of students in the UK - think of it like a much bigger version of your school council.


Open days

Open days are an opportunity for you to look around a university and its facilities as well as speak to staff and students. Activities include subject talks, finance talks, campus tours, accommodation tours and subject-specific activities.


Personal statement

A personal statement is a section of the UCAS application where applicants express their suitability for the course(s) they are applying for. There is only one personal statement for all of the application choices.

Personal Tutor

A member of staff who is allocated to look after your personal well-being during university. Your personal tutor is usually an academic in the same subject department of your course.


This is also known as a doctorate. A PhD is the highest degree you can earn, usually taking a 3-4 years to complete. PhDs are available for students who have already achieved an undergraduate degree. Obtaining a PhD means that you can work as a professional researcher or a university professor.

Placement year (or module)

Work experience or a study placement which can be an optional or compulsory part of the degree. Student have the option to take their placement in a different institution, industry or in another country. (See sandwich course).


A student who has completed their bachelor's degree and is studying for a higher degree (i.e. Master's or PhD).

Postgraduate course

A higher level degree course available to those who have passed their bachelor's degree. For example, a Master's degree which is level 7 or a PhD which is level 8.


An academic member of staff who has achieved the highest academic level.


A book outlining specific information about a university and the range of courses they provide. Propectus' can also be viewed on university websites. Check out BCU's prospectus here.


Sandwich course

This is a course that allows you to undertake a placement in an industry of your choice for one year.


Universities can award non-repayable scholarships based on personal circumstances (i.e achievement, household income). Check out BCU's Up-Grade scholarship.


The academic year is divided into blocks of study, similar to school terms, we call them semesters.


Smaller teaching sessions where students can engage in discussions with other students and a lecturer. Discussions usually follow on from topics discussed in lectures. Seminars are similar to classes at school.

Single honours degrees

An undergraduate degree where you study just one subject for your degree.


Societies are groups of like-minded students that share interests, activities, sports or beliefs. They're a bit like school clubs, only cooler.

Student finance

Student finance is money that can be borrowed from the Student Loans Company to cover tuition fees and living costs. The loan will be paid back once a student has graduated and earning above a certain amount.

Student Loans Company (SLC)

SLC provide financial help to students during their studies and manage the loan repayments after a student graduates.

Student Union (SU)

Student unions are organised by students, for students. They are the voice of students, representing their interests. The student union will often organise activities and events for students. Every university has a student union, which runs a bit like a school council.

Student Finance England (SFE)

The Government funding body that assesses and approves applications for financial support. This includes loans, grants and tuition fees.


Tariff points

When you look at going to uni, courses will ask for a certain number of tariff points in order to accept you onto the course. Your A

Tuition fees

Tuition fees are the cost of your study/course. Universities can charge up to £9,250 per year. Students can apply for a tuition fee loan from Student Finance to cover the costs.


Members of staff within universities who are responsible for teaching and assisting you with your learning.


A tutorial can either be an individual or group session, where you can discuss their work or any issues with a tutor.

Tuition fee loan

Money loaned from Student Finance to cover the cost of tuition fees. This loan is paid directly to the university in instalments.



Universities and College Admission Service is responsible for processing students' university applications. The application process is online via

Unconditional offer

A university offer where the applicant has satisfied the criteria for their course and has no further conditions to meet.


A student usually studying for their first Bachelor's degree, which can last between 3 to 4 years. An undergraduate degree is the first level of Higher Education.

Undergraduate with combined Masters

Usually four to five-year degrees that incorporate three years of undergraduate studies with an additional year to gain a Masters qualification.


A Higher Education Institution which awards degrees and has research facilities.

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