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Jargon buster

There is a lot of jargon involved with applying for higher education. Here is our A-Z guide explaining what some of the most commonly used terms mean. 

A - E

A

Academic year: The academic year consists of thirty weeks divided into two semesters of fifteen weeks. The year usually starts towards the end of September and runs through to June, with breaks for the Christmas and Easter vacations.

Access course: Access courses prepare students without traditional qualifications, such as mature students or students who missed out on A-level results, for entry into university or college.

Admissions tutors: Each department or faculty will have an admissions tutor who is responsible for handling the admissions process.

Alumni: This is the term for people who attended or graduated from a particular school, college or university.

B

Bachelor’s degree: This is the name given to an undergraduate degree that usually lasts between three and four years. Graduates can receive either a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc) or a Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) depending on the subject studied. 

Bursary: A bursary is a financial grant awarded to someone who fulfils specific criteria. In some cases students will have to apply for a bursary and in others it will be automatically awarded if they meet the eligibility criteria. 

C

Campus: A campus is the environment in which university buildings and grounds are grouped together in one area. Sometimes universities have a number of different campuses. The University of East London is based in two superbly located campuses – in Stratford, close to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and in London Docklands, near Royal Albert Dock. We are easy to get to by public transport or by car.

CAS: A Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) is a compulsory requirement to support a Tier 4 (General) student visa application for international students. A CAS must be requested before a student starts their visa application.

Clearing: If you don’t get a place on a course – whether it is because you didn’t get offers, declined offers or failed to get the necessary grades – Clearing is a system operated by UCAS that allows you to apply for other courses that still have vacancies.

Conditional offer: A conditional offer means an applicant has a place on a UCAS course of study dependent on achieving certain conditions, such as minimum A-level grades.

Conditional Firm: This is a conditional offer that has been firmly accepted by an applicant. Once the conditions are met, this will become an Unconditional firm (UF).

Core modules: Core modules are modules that are central and compulsory to the programme of study. Passing assessment and/or examination in these is essential to enable the student to progress to the next level of the course.

CPD: CPD stands for Continuing Professional Development. This is the process of continuing to develop skills and knowledge beyond any initial training. 

Credit Accumulation Transfer Scheme (CATS): Sometimes it is possible to gain credit for completing parts of a degree. A student may be able to transfer credits under CATS if they have already studied to a certain level, on a degree programme or for relevant professional qualifications before starting a degree.

Credit level: Credit level is a way to distinguish the difficulty of a module. First year modules are usually rated as Level 4, second year modules as Level 5, and final year modules as Level 6.

D

Data Protection Act: This is a UK law governing the use and storage of personal information. This can mean parents are unable to access information about their children once they are past the age of 18.

Dean: The Dean is a senior member of university staff who is responsible for the operation of a faculty, including teaching.

Degree ceremony: This is an event where students are formally awarded their degrees and receive degree certificates.

Degree grades: The typical degree grades are a First, an upper or lower Second (2:1 or 2:2), a Third, or a Fail.

Dissertation: A dissertation is a detailed and heavily-researched piece of writing, usually between 6,000–8,000 words and submitted at the end of the final year of a degree.

E

Enrolment: This is the act of formally registering for a course or module.

Erasmus student: An Erasmus student is a European exchange student whose home university has an Erasmus exchange agreement with the university. The student usually receives an Erasmus grant from their home university and their choice of modules is subject to a learning agreement.

EU student: An EU student is a student whose normal home is outside the UK, within a country which is a member of the European Union.

Extracurricular activities: These are activities that are considered outside the scope of the academic requirements of the degree programme of study.

F - J

F

Foundation degree: This is a two-year course with the opportunity to work up to an honours degree over a further year.

Foundation year: This is a year-long programme providing students with an entry route to a BA/BSc honours degree.

Fresher: This term is used for a first year undergraduate student, contracted from the term “freshman”.

Freshers' Week: This is the first week at university, which includes registration, welcome, induction and social events for new students.

G

Graduate: A graduate is a person who has completed and passed his or her degree and has had it officially conferred by a graduation ceremony.

H

Halls of residence: These are university-owned accommodations where students can live while studying.

Higher degree: This is a postgraduate degree, usually done after a first, undergraduate degree. It can be a Master's degree (MA or MSc) or a doctorate (PhD).

Honours degree: A first course of higher education study undertaken at university, normally lasting three or four years.

I

International student: A term used to describe students whose normal home is outside the UK, and sometimes also outside the European Union. There are students from more than 120 different countries at UEL.

J

Joint honours: A joint honours is a first degree combining two subjects, usually split 50:50. Sometimes you spend more time studying one subject (in which case it is your major field) than the other (which is your minor field).

L - P

L

LEA: Local Education Authorities, LEA, are the local councils in the UK that are responsible for education within their jurisdiction.

M

Mature student: A mature student is an undergraduate student aged over 21. As of 2017, a total of 62 per cent of the UEL student body are mature students.

Module: A module is a unit of study that explores a specific area within a subject. Each module has a set number of credits which will vary from course to course.

N

NUS: NUS stands for National Union of Students. The UEL Students' Union is a member of the NUS, which represents the interests of more than seven million students in further and higher education.

P

Placement year: A placement year is a year of a university course in which students gain experience in the workplace. A placement year is usually the penultimate (last but one) of a course. 

Plagiarism: The act of plagarism is using or copying another person's work without acknowledgement. Anyone found to be plagiarising at any university will be subject to disciplinary procedures.

S - V

S

Sandwich course: A sandwich course is a course of study which includes a year of practical work ('placement year') in an organisation outside the University. The sandwich year is usually the penultimate year of a degree programme.

Scholarships: Scholarships are a means of additional financial support awarded to eligible students. This financial aid is usually awarded on the basis of individual merit and personal circumstances.

School: A School is a department representing a certain subject area. 

Semester: Teaching at university takes place over two semesters in blocks of 14 weeks.

Seminar: A seminar is an academic meeting where a group of students discuss a subject with a tutor. Usually someone (or a group) prepares a paper for discussion and shares the research they have done and their opinions on the subject. Seminars are more interactive than a lecture and are often student-led.

Statement of Award: A Statement of Award is the official notification of results that a student will receive. These are issued after every exam period, usually online via the University’s webpages.

Student Finance England: This is part of the Student Loans Company. Student Finance England deals with applications for student finance from higher education students in England, and lets parents and partners of students provide financial details to support an application online. Similar services operate for students from Wales and Northern Ireland.

Student Finance Services: Student Finance Services is the part of the Student Loans Company that deals with applications for tuition loans from European Union students.

T

Tuition fees: Tuition fees are academic fees for UK and EU students and are regulated by the Government. Fees for eligible students are paid directly to the University by the Student Loans Company. International students will usually pay different fees to Home/EU students. 

Tutorial: A tutorial is an academic meeting where a small group meets to discuss their work and general course issues with each other and their tutor. Tutorials can also be on an individual basis with a student discussing their work with a tutor.

U

UCAS: Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is the organisation which processes applications to UK universities for all undergraduate courses.

UCAS Extra: If a student does not get an offer from any of their five choices, the UCAS Extra service can find them another course to apply to before they do their exams.

UCAS Track: This is the online system that allows applicants to follow the progress of their applications for university courses and to respond to offers.

UK student: This is a student whose normal home is the UK (also called 'Home' students).

Unconditional offer (U): An Unconditional offer means an applicant has a definite place on a UCAS course of study without having to do anything more.

Unconditional Firm (UF): This is an uconditional offer that has been firmly accepted by an applicant.

Unsuccessful (R): An Unsuccessful response means an applicant has not been accepted for a university course. 

Undergraduate: An undergraduate is a person who is studying for a first degree.

V

Viva voce (often abbreviated to “Viva”): This is an examination in which you have a spoken interview rather than a written exam. Some university courses, especially in languages, will test students' knowledge through a combination of written and viva voce examinations.

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