University Glossary

University is a daunting thing, especially when you don’t know what everyone is talking about, it can feel a bit like learning a new language! Luckily, we at University Compare, are more than aware of the challenges that new students (And even older students) face when trying to understand exactly what people are talking about, so we’ve created a University Terms Glossary for you, right here, a University Dictionary, if you will select the phrase that you think you’re going to struggle with, and get learning!

Access Course:

An Access Course is an “entry-level degree” for university students that perhaps don’t feel that they are ready for full university degree at university. An Access Course will focus on a number of different subject areas, mainly that of English Language and English Literature, and will also have a very brief introduction to the university degree that you will be doing. Not all universities will offer Access Courses, however, so be aware of that before applying.


The polar opposite of Clearing (See below). This is where you have over achieved on your A-Level Results Day. If you were predicted to get 225 UCAS Points and you ended up with 270 UCAS Points, then you’re in luck! You can apply to even better universities than the ones you were applying to, to begin with, you clever little sausage, you!

Agricultural University:

A university that is aimed at students that are looking to pursue a career in Agriculture and with an emphasis on Agricultural skills and Farming skills. These universities are perhaps best known for more niche university degrees that they offer, such as Equine Studies or a Forestry Degree.


This is a process at university. The process is usually done for students that are unhappy with their results. This is done when students either feel that they have received a higher or lower grade than they expected. When doing things like this, it depends on which level of study you are at for this, but the best people to speak to are your course tutor and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAAHE) for advice and to request a remark.

Assignment Deadline:

Pretty self-explanatory, really. This is the deadline that your assignment must be submitted for grading. Whether this is physically handed into your course tutor, or using a university software.

Attendance Grading:

When you receive your final grade for the university year, it will often include a grade for a number of classes that you have attended. Your Attendance Grade will often make up somewhere between 5% and 10% of your final grade, so make sure you attend your lectures!

Bachelor of Arts (BA):

A Bachelor of Arts or BA, is just a fancy way of saying degree. This is only relevant in certain university fields. For instance, a History degree, a Communications degree or a degree in the Arts field is the main area that a student can achieve a BA. This is not too different from your normal Undergraduate degree, it just has a fancy name.

Bachelor of Education (BeD):

This is a degree that is geared more towards those that are studying to become a teacher. Whilst universities do still offer BeD’s for students, the qualification has somewhat fazed out over the years as universities have either opted for specific degrees or have opted for other teaching qualifications such as a PGCE degree (See below).

Bachelor of Science (BSc):

This is a degree that is awarded to students that have completed a degree in either a Science-related area of study or a Mathematics degree of some kind. BSc’s take longer than your usual undergraduate degrees, as they can last anywhere between the standard three years and the longer five years.


A Bursary is given to those that are in need of financial help. It is designed to offer money to the students that perhaps come from low-income households or those that require additional financial support, a Bursary is not affected by any previous academic achievements.

Business School:

Pretty much what it says on the side of the tin, to be honest. A school or institute that is created with the express purpose of helping students that are looking to study anything in the realm of Business, whether that be a Business Management degree or an Economics degree or anything else that you can think of that is Business, related.


The site. Basically, this is the university grounds, anything that is owned by the university is considered to be the “university campus”.

Capping – Class Size:

The maximum number of students that are able to study a certain course. Most courses will have a high number of admissions and a high number of students that are already on the course. Most universities will introduce a capping system for classes that are becoming too popular.

Capping – Grades:

You absolutely do not want to be here! This is when a student has submitted their piece of work late. Whether that be a week late or a second late, the deadline has passed. This now means that you can only achieve a maximum of 40% on that piece of work. It doesn’t matter how good the piece of work was, anything over 40% will still be marked as such, so make sure you don’t go missing any deadlines, university can be a cruel mistress.


Using a piece of work or quote that is already by another person. Essentially, you are referencing, but Citing means that you will need to say where you found the work that you’re using. Not a nice thing to have to do, but you will need to do it all the same.


This is often when a student applies to a different university than the one that they had initially decided to join after they have not achieved the grades that they believed that they would. It can often be a blessing in disguise, however, as it can mean that you are able to either retake your exams during a gap year or apply for a different course at another university. Check out our official University Clearing app, here.

Conditional Offer:

This is an offer from a university. The offer will state that you will be accepted to study at the university, assuming of course, that you meet certain standards set by the university in question. This will often mean having to achieve certain grades or meet certain academic milestones.


This is an institution that offers more performance-based degrees, such as Dancing, Performing Arts degree or a drama course.

Contact Hours:

This is basically a fancy way of saying attending hours. This is when you’re due to be appearing in university lectures, or you’re meant to be in tutorials or workshops. Note: This doesn’t include examinations in their hours.

Continuous Assessment:

This is where you are graded on your work, outside of officially recognised examinations. Basically, this will take-into-account everything for assignments, class tests and coursework and will give you a grade accordingly.

Course Credits:

This is a unit of value. Though it’s not a currency, it is a currency with which your university life can be transformed. Course Credits indicate the value of the module of the course that you’re studying. If you decide to study a postgraduate degree, then your university may look at your course credits for previous years.


You’ll probably already be aware of the concept and definition of what coursework, but it is still worth covering. It can also be known under the word assessment too. Coursework is work done independently for your normal classwork activities. The work that you complete will almost always count towards the final grade that you receive at the end of the school year, however, it has been known to be the overall judgement for students that don’t have examinations for their course(s). However, this is incredibly rare at university these days. Some students will prefer their course to be marked heavily in coursework, while other will prefer exams, this is why choosing a degree course is tailed to your preferences is essential.

Deadline Extension:

All essays or pieces of work will have a deadline that the university expects you to adhere to, however, sometimes, especially in mitigating circumstances, you will need to have the deadline extended further, so the course tutor will grant you an extension to complete your work. This can be through request or it will be given in class.


This is where you have applied to university, but do not intend to start the course for another year. Maybe you feel like taking up a gap year or venturing off into the world of work for the forthcoming year. There are differences between Deferral and Mitigation, however, so don’t get the two confused.

Degree Apprenticeship:

This is a degree that allows students to balance university life and university work with work in the real world. The courses tend to last a bit longer, generally around twice the time of a normal degree, however, these allow the students to focus on the possibilities of securing a job when university is done. This is statistically usually done by Mature Students (See below), though, this is not always the case.

Deposit Scheme:

This is any money that is given to your student landlord at the very beginning of your tenancy in a new house. This deposit will secure your place, however, it will now make you responsible for any of the damages that happen around the property, itself. Any arrangements that need to be made around the property like cleaning, construction, damages, gardening, plumbing etc, will be taken out of your deposit.


Basically some student slang for you here. This is pretty much the only bit of slang in the whole glossary, so you won’t need to carry this around like a Nadsat dictionary for a copy of “A Clockwork Orange”. Basically, digs is a rented room in a house, whether you’re renting with a family or living with friends, this is how “digs” work.


A dissertation is an essay on a subject of your choice, it usually comes at the end of your final year, although, some universities and some courses will have multiple dissertations per-course, although this is exceedingly rare, this is why it’s important to choose the right university and course that suits your work style best. A dissertation is mainly a research project that is aimed at seeing how students handle independent study. Most dissertations will come with independent word counts too; the word count is vitally important too.

Distance Learning:

This is a course that is done by not actually appearing at any lectures. Although this may seem like a student’s dream-come-true, alas it is not. The lectures are usually done on the internet and do not mean that you can just not do any work. This is also known as a Correspondence Course.


This allows the student that has achieved the grade to teach at university-level in the subject area that the Doctorate has been achieved. Some other jobs require a Doctorate too, such as being a Doctor or working in any other type of Medical-field.

Domestic Student:

This is a student who is legally a citizen of the country that they are studying in. This can be very useful because, in countries like Scotland, the student finance in Scotland means that you are eligible for free education if you are for the country or are an EU National.

Double Marking:

This is where your piece of work is marked by two separate people. This works in several ways, it means that either the second marker does not see the first mark when marking, or both markers agree on a grade overall to mark the paper.

Dropping Out:

This is where you make the decision to leave university, midway through your studies, not to be confused with Mitigation (See below).

Entry Requirements:

This is what the universities that you apply to need you to achieve in order to attend the university. This can be anything for Grades to UCAS points, although these often go hand-in-hand.


A programme designed to help students to travel abroad as part of a university course. Often part of a language course, designed to help students with anything from travel to accommodation. The Erasmus programme has been around since 1987.

Examinations Only:

The module that you are studying is adjudged purely on your performance in the examination at the end of the university term.

Extenuating Circumstances:

These generally tend to vary for university-to-university, but they have the same basic premise, which is that if you find yourself affected by ill health or you are affected by a bereavement or some such issue, then you are excused for work until a later date. It is unlikely to affect your final result.

External Examiner:

These are people that mark your work outside of university. This ensures that your mark is fair and is not done with prior knowledge of the student themselves, which can be an advantage and a disadvantage.


This is a division in a university that makes up one subject area. This is basically made up of teachers and other faculty helpers that assist with the teaching of the course.

Fee Brackets:

This really is just to see if you’re paying any international tuition fees or any domestic fees as you go a long through university. Basically, if you are part of a programme (Like Erasmus) that studies abroad, you may (But not always) be susceptible to potential fees.

Firm Choice:

This is a university offer that you receive that you accept as your first choice to go to. It’s up to you to make sure that you get in, though!

First Class Honours:

The highest honour that you can achieve in a degree at university. This means that you have achieved over a grade point of 70 throughout your studies. This means that you will achieve a 1:1. Otherwise known as a first.

Foundation Degree:

A foundation degree is a little bit different for your Honours degree (See below). A Foundation degree will have lower grade requirements, allowing students to study a degree with weaker grades. Once the Foundation degree has been completed, students then have two options; 1 – continue with the Foundation degree and graduate with that particular level degree or 2 – transfer over to a honours degree and complete to course with a higher valued degree (we would recommend this if you feel confident with your studies).


A fresher is someone in the first year of their time at university. There isn’t really much more to say about that if we’re honest!

Fresher’s Week:

A chance for fellow freshers to meet each other. The idea of fresher’s week is that people get to know each other and get to experience the university that they have turned up to or the town/city that they are now in. You’ll need to get stuck in if you want to appreciate it fully! Fresher’s Week will also give you the chance to talk to 2nd and 3rd years, so they are great people to talk to as they have already experienced the university life already!

Full-Time Course:

As predicted, a course that is the polar opposite of a part-time course. This is a degree that has a timetable on every day of the week. Weekends are unlikely, but some universities have been known to do that, too!

Gap Year:

This is a year that is often taken before the beginning of university and after the completion of secondary education. You can work, retake exams, volunteer, explore the world or anything else that you can imagine!


This is someone who has completed their degree. This does not give an indication to the grade that was achieved necessarily, however.

Group Work:

An assessment that requires students to work with other students to form a group. Can be a stressful time for students, but also a very communal one, there are mixed reactions to this, you are marked for your own individual contribution and your ability to collaborate, too.


HEFCE stands for the Higher Education Funding Council for England. This is a company that is made with the express purpose of providing the highest possible standards for students that are in higher education.

Higher National Certificate (HNC):

A further education qualification. This is a level below that of an HND (See below) and is the equivalent of the first year of a university course.

Higher National Diploma (HND):

A two-year course that is offered by a higher education institute, often polytechnics and the like. This is the equivalent of two years at a university, however, without the prestige.

Honours Degree:

An honours degree is often just referred to as a normal degree. An honour’s degree is the degree that you will most likely be studying. It is also a prerequisite for studying a Master’s Degree.

House Share:

This is a house that is shared by university students. This will often compromise of students that are usually doing the same course, or a course related to one another (Though this is not always the case) and is not supervised by the university, either.

Independent Learning:

This is learning that is done outside of the university lecture environment and is done in your own time. Lots of degrees will grade you on your Independent Learning, so make sure you do it!


The university itself. This mainly applies to the university as a whole, rather than just one building or one campus.

Insurance Choice:

When you apply to university, you are expected to have a first choice (See above) and an Insurance Choice. An Insurance Choice is there as “insurance” to ensure that you have a university to go to if your ideal choice does not work out for you.

International Student(s):

A student that has come from another country to study a university that is not in their country of origin.

Integrated Master’s Degree:

This is a normal degree, in essence, however, it will be followed by an additional year’s study at a level similar to that of a Master’s Degree. A very popular degree, especially if you want to have your degree expand further.


Basically the teacher. This is the person who is responsible for taking the lecture in question and teaching you the course.

Live Deadline Assignment:

This is similar to a controlled assessment. This is when you will have to complete an essay on any given topic in exam conditions.

Maintenance Loan:

A Maintenance Loan pays for your living costs, the loan is then paid directly into your bank account at the start of every university term. A Maintenance Loan is dependent on the household income and is dictated by the amount coming into the household of those that are applying for them.

Mature Students:

A Mature Student is someone who is over the age of twenty-one when they begin university. There is a fair amount of dispute over the age, but officially, universities consider all those over twenty-one to be a Mature Student.

Nineteen Ninety-Four Group (1994 Group):

This is eleven research-intensive universities that have formed a sort of coalition together since 1994. It is made up of some of the very best universities in the UK and includes the following eleven universities:

Open Day(s):

A day when prospective students may come and visit the university and explore the facilities, speak to lecturers, gain an insight into the university’s history and the codes and conduct. We recommend that you attend as many Open Days as possible in order to gauge a feeling of the university before agreeing to join.

Part-Time Degree:

A degree that doesn’t have the same hours as a full-time degree. With a Part-Time degree, the hours are usually around twenty-one hours-a-week and lectures usually take place in the evening, much like Night School.

Personal Statement:

A statement written by you to essentially, ahem, sell yourself to a university and inform them why you would be a good fit for both the course and the university, itself. Submitted onto UCAS and it is written between 3,000 and 4,000 characters (Including spaces).


A PhD is a Doctor of Philosophy. Despite its namesake, it is not only related to a Philosophy degree. The qualification is often used for people that are looking to gain jobs as scientists or teachers or a career similar to this. PhD’s can only offer by universities and are only offered in certain subject fields. It is also known as a Doctorate as well. A PhD or Doctorate will also increase your chances of finding more popular jobs, too!

Placement Year:

This is also the same as a “Sandwich Year”. This is where you take a year out of your chosen university course and begin working at a placement. This is not the same as taking a gap year or mitigating or deferring.

Private Halls:

These are exactly the same as normal halls, but more expensive. These will have everything for ensuites, larger communal areas for the students and with more open space as the halls will most likely be larger.

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA):

This is an agency that is aimed with the sole focus of improving higher education standards for students in the UK. This is by advising universities and informing them of any issues that may cause a dip in quality.


Used a quote or some statistics that are helping your essay? Probably best that you tell everyone where you got them from.

Russell Group:

This is a group of twenty-four universities that have very high academic standards and have been renowned for some time, in their various fields. The group is made up of universities that have always achieved consistently high grades. The universities included in the group are:


No, we’re not talking about the school that you’re so used to. This is a university classification for certain university classes, such as School of Medicine. It is a specialised way of studying certain subjects.


A seminar can have a different connotation than you may be used to. When people usually talk about seminars, people often think of people speaking to a large room and teaching the people in attendance. This is not the case with the university context of the word. The university context of the word is that students sit down in a room with their course tutor and discuss the course topics and engage in discussion. This may also be known as a tutorial group.

STEM Subjects:

This is a blanket term for certain subjects. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Student Advisor:

If you have any issues you go to your Student Advisor. A Student Advisor is there to facilitate you with any issues that you may have and any problems that you may be encountering. And they will always be able to help you out with university and personal issues.

Student Loan:

This is there to help students to pay for any big expenses at university. Whether they be tuition, living expenses and books. It does also have interest rates included, too, not paid back until you are earning over a certain threshold or past the thirty-year cut-off.

Student Union:

The Student Union is a communal area complete with a bar and other activities that will be arranged by your student representatives. Your student union body is there to ensure that students are well represented and will help as much as they can with any issues that you are facing.

Submission Drop Box:

This is a place where you will deliver your completed assignments. This can be a physical drop box for your lecturer or a digital one online, sometimes you will use a software like TurnItIn (See below).


A degree that is awarded when students have achieved between a 40 to 49-grade point on the university degree. Less than 40 will result in an overall failure.

Tuition Fee:

The amount of money that it will cost you to study the course that you have chosen at the university that you are attending.


The person who will teach the course that you’re on. They may not teach you specifically but they will be in charge of the university course itself in some capacity. They will meet you every so often to gauge your progress on your course and how you’re coping with university life in general.


This is the organisation that you will use to apply to university, and you cannot apply any other way. UCAS stands for the Universities and College Application System.

UCAS Fair:

This is sort of like a careers day, in that over three-hundred different institutions (Universities and colleges alike) will appear and will provide prospective university students with the information that they need about their institution. Gap year companies and recruiters have also been known to attend.

Unconditional Offer:

This is where you have met all the conditions that the university has asked you to meet and will, therefore (Most likely) be accepted to study on the course of your choice at university.

Upper Second-Class Honours:

This is a degree that is awarded to students that have received between a 60 and sixty-nine in their overall course study. This is often written as a 2:1.

Viva Voce:

This is an oral examination. Viva Voce itself translates literally as: with living voice. This is obviously most common in modern language examinations.


This is a way to give you an idea how much a certain module, assignment or an academic year will be worth for your overall grade. For instance, examinations may make up 45% of your overall grade and the rest is in modules and assignments in a 25% and 30% split.


This is where you or indeed the university themselves, have withdrawn your application for the university in question before the course starts.