Each industry or workplace often has its own terms and words for specific things, places or people and a university is no different. Here we’ve attempted to explain some of the terms you may come across in our website that are specific to higher education.

If we’ve got a definition wrong or you think we’ve missed a word out please let us know via email at [email protected].

Academic degree

A position and title within a college or university that is usually awarded in recognition of the recipient having either satisfactorily completed a prescribed course of study or having conducted a scholarly endeavour deemed worthy of his or her admission to the degree. The most common degrees awarded today are Bachelor's, Master's, and doctoral degrees.

Foundation Degree

A vocational qualification introduced by the government of the United Kingdom in September 2001, which is available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Foundation degrees are intended to give a basic knowledge in a subject to enable the holder to go on to employment or further study in that field.


People who have graduated (ie completed a course and gained a qualification) from a particular university are described as alumni.

Most universities have active alumni associations that enable past students to keep in touch with each other and the university.


A non-repayable grant of money awarded to a student on application who fulfils specific criteria.


This usually refers to the buildings and surroundings of a university where the university is the principal or sole occupier of an area.


The position of Chancellor is a titular role with day-to-day operations handled by the Vice-Chancellor. The Chancellor is called upon for ceremonial duties and acts as ambassador for the University whenever possible.


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. About 30,000 students go through the clearing system each year. For further information on the process


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.


An extended essay or report usually between 7,000 and 15,000 words on a specific subject completed during a course of study.


A faculty is a number of academic departments that are grouped together for teaching, research and administrative purposes.


“Finals” is the name given to the final exams taken by students at the end of their study.


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.


A graduate is a person who has been awarded a degree from a university or college.

Halls of Residence

Halls of Residence are blocks of student accommodation, which either provide meals or self-catering facilities. Priority for places in Halls of Residence is usually given to first year students.


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.


Plagiarism is when someone uses someone else’s writing or ideas and pretends that they are their own.


A prospectus is a book, CD-ROM or website, which gives the details of courses, activities and student life at a university or college.

Sandwich Course

Sandwich courses are degree courses which include an extra year 'sandwiched' between the years of study.


Scholarships are grants (not repayable) of money made to a student. They are like a bursary, but scholarships are usually based on academic merit and excellence as opposed to financial need.


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

Student Loans

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

Students Union

Each university will have a Students Union (which will probably be part of the National Union of Students).

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees cover the cost of your study and may vary depending on what and where you study. 

The “tuition fee loan” is paid back after the student has graduated and is earning over a certain amount.


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


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



N.B. This glossary has been created using information inspired by several academic and professional websites including WikipediaUniSA, South Australia, and The Student Room. There has been no intention to publicise this page as unique in content.

If you believe any of the information here has been reproduced without the proper action being taken please contact us via email at [email protected]