Jargon Buster


Academic Year

This is the university year, which runs from September to July.

Access Course

An access course is an alternative route into university. Access courses are for mature students (over 21), who don’t have the appropriate formal qualifications to enter Higher Education.

Access to Learning Fund

The Access to Learning Fund provides financial support for students whose access to Higher Education may be affected by financial issues. Priority groups include students with children, students from low income backgrounds and students who find themselves in unexpected financial hardship.


The admissions team at a university process potential students’ applications and make offers for a place on the course.


This is a community of former students who have graduated, and keep in touch with the university through the Alumni Association.

A levels

A levels, (Advanced levels) are taken after GCSE’s and normally take two years to complete in school or college.


These are vocational A levels or ‘Advanced Vocational Certificates of Education’. These courses educate a student in vocational subjects such as Leisure and Tourism.

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This is the abbreviation for Bachelor of Art. This is a type of degree traditionally awarded to those subjects based in the field of Art. However, this is a very broad category and can include subject areas such as Social Sciences and English.

Bachelors Degree

A bachelor’s degree (can also be called a ‘first degree’) is the qualification you achieve after successfully completing a three (or four) year programme of degree-level study at university or college.


This is the abbreviation for Bachelor of Engineering. This type of degree is awarded to those subjects based in the field of Engineering.


Blackboard is the electronic system used at Aston Business School. It provides information to students regarding their degree programme, such as lecture notes, notices about exams and timetables.


This is the abbreviation for Bachelor of Science. This type of degree is traditionally awarded to subjects based in the field of Science and Social Science. The BSc degree is not limited to traditional sciences.

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The campus refers to the buildings and grounds where a university or college is based.


Clearing is a system that operates after A Level results are published. It allows prospective students without a university place to apply for courses at universities where there are still vacancies. 

Combined Honours

Combined Honours is a form of degree which offers students the chance to study two subjects to degree level.

Conditional Offer

This is an offer made by the admissions team which is dependent on students reaching certain targets (e.g. 280 tariff points at A Level).

Core Texts

Core texts refer to key reading texts which are essential for students to study during their course. In some instances students may be expected to/ advised to purchase a core text.


All modules undertaken at Aston University are given a ‘credit’ value.  For example, a module that lasts for two semesters will have a total of 20 credits. For students to progress to the next year they need to have taken a total of 120 credits. Ten credits equals 100 learning hours, which includes lectures, tutorials/seminars, personal study and assessment.

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Most students choose to take out a loan to support themselves whilst they are studying at university. This means that most students will leave after graduation with a debt, usually to the “Student Loans Company”.

Deferred entry

A student can apply for a university place but request that they start it the following year, thus deferring entry. Students who wish to take a GAP year do this to ensure they have a place at university for when they complete their year out.


A degree is a qualification awarded by a university after the satisfactory completion of a degree programme. This is the equivalent of three years of full-time study or four years if the programme offers a placement year.         


A dissertation is normally a long report, written in the final year of study based upon research undertaken by the students themselves.  Not all programmes at Aston University require students to undertake a dissertation.

Distance Learning

This is when students study from home, using materials provided by the institution.

Drop-out rate/Attrition rate

These terms refer to the percentage of students who do not complete their degree and leave before the end of a course. This can happen for a variety of reasons.

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This term refers to how suitable a person is for employment. We refer to the suitability of a student for employment once they have graduated.


Enrolment is the formal process of a student starting at a university and being given all the important and relevant information they will need.

Entry requirements

These are the required grades or qualifications a student needs to gain entrance to a particular degree programme at university. Different degree programmes have different entry requirements. Normally this is measured in Tariff Points. (For example- 320 points = one grade A and two grade B’s at A level.)


This is the abbreviation for the European Quality Improvement System. This is a Business School accreditation system.

External Examiner System

The external examiner system is in place to ensure that students are marked fairly and standards are maintained. External examiners are usually academics from other institutions. They moderate students’ assessments to ensure that the grade they received was appropriate. Exam questions are also approved by external examiners.

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FE – Further Education

Further Education provides education and courses in a wide range of subjects and levels. These include A Levels, AS Levels, Vocational A Levels, National Diplomas and key skills. They can be offered in school 6th forms, Further Education Colleges, Adult Education Colleges and other institutions.


Students, depending on the family household income, may have to pay tuition fees for their course. In 2014 the tuition fees for undergraduate home students will be £9,000.


“Finals” is the name given to the last set of examinations taken by students at the end of their final year of study.

Foundation Degree Programmes

This is a programme designed to prepare students who have acceptable qualifications for general university entry, but do not have the appropriate level or coverage for a specific degree programme.

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GAP year

Students can opt to take a “GAP” year either before they start university or straight after graduation. This is a year where they gain experience and knowledge, often doing voluntary work or 'travelling', before settling into a long term arrangement such as university or a graduate job.


This is the term used for a person who has completed and passed his or her degree and been awarded their qualification. A student studying for a degree is known as an undergraduate.


The graduation ceremony is where a student formally collects their degree. You can graduate without attending the ceremony (although you do need to have your qualification confirmed) but it is an excellent opportunity to celebrate your achievements.


HE - Higher Education

This is education and training for students of 18 years and older, who have completed the required amount of study in further education, (college or sixth form). Institutions such as universities often provide Higher Education in the form of degree programmes.

HEFCE - Higher Education Funding Council of England

HEFCE is the funding body for all the Universities in England. It is a Government Agency.

Higher Education Institution (HEI)

This is any institution which offers Higher Education courses, such a universities and colleges.


These are the abbreviations for Higher National Certificate & Higher National Diploma. These are courses which last for approximately two years and are usually in vocational subjects, such as Business and Finance. They can sometimes offer advanced entry onto a degree course, e.g. direct entry into a second year.

Home students

This applies to students who are based in the UK at the time of application to the institution and meet residence requirements.

Honours Degree (Hons)

This is a degree programme taken at university. It is normally a first degree which lasts three or four years. An honours degree requires extra modules/units to be studied in comparison to an Ordinary Degree, often in the form of a dissertation.

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This is the abbreviation for International Baccalaureate. This is a qualification taken in some European countries which is roughly equivalent to A Levels.


The abbreviation for International English Language Testing System. This is an English Language qualification which overseas students may need to complete before starting a degree course in the UK.

International Students/Overseas students

This is a term used to describe students who come to England from outside the EU.

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Joint Honours

 Joint Honours is a form of degree which offers students the chance to study two related subjects to degree level. (See also Combined Honours).

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Key Skills

Key skills are the skills which will be required in the world of work and are important in all aspects of life. These include communication, IT, literacy, numeracy, team work, problem solving and self-management.

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LEA – Local Education Authority

The Local Education Authority is responsible for education for those up to 18 years old. They have a ‘Student Awards’ department which deals with requests for funding from people living in that area who wish to go to university.


A lecture is a lesson given by an academic member of staff, usually to a large number of students. Many lecturers also give out handouts to support students in their note-taking and act as a reference point for further reading.

Level 3 qualifications

Level 3 qualifications include A Levels, BTECs and International Baccalaureate


Lecturers are academic members of staff at university who are responsible for the teaching of university degree programmes. (Also see Lecture)

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Masters degree (MA, MSc, MPhil, MEd)

Masters degrees are taught courses which allow students to extend their learning for one to two years after they have graduated from their first (Bachelors) degree.

Mature Student

This applies to students who are over 21 when they start their course. 


This is the abbreviation for Master of Business Administration, a type of Masters Degree. It is often compulsory to have relevant work experience before you can begin this degree.


The meaning of mentor/mentoring varies from organisation to organisation. However, it usually refers to a one-to-one, non-judgmental relationship in which an individual gives his/her time to support and encourage another. 


A module is a unit of study that explores a specific area within a subject.

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Offers are made to students who apply for a place at university. They are made by the admissions team and are often dependent on students achieving certain grades in their exams. (Also see Conditional Offer)

Open Days

Open Days are a great opportunity for students (and their parents) to look around a university and speak to staff and students. They are usually offered in relation to a certain course, i.e. Business and Management Open Day. Universities also offer Pre and Post Application visits. A Pre-Application Open Day is more general about the university as a whole whereas the Post-Application Open Day (or Applicant Visit Day) is more focused on the subject that a student has applied for.

Overseas students/International students

This is a term used to describe students who come to the UK from outside the EU.


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Pastoral Care

Care provided by the university support services for students with problems not related to their academic studies.

Personal Tutor

Students are allocated a personal tutor as soon as they start university. It is usually an academic in their main subject department, who is there to help look after their personal welfare.

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

This is a specialist degree available for students that have already achieved a first degree. It usually lasts approximately 3 years full time (and up to 6 years part time) and the student undertakes original research which must be publishable. A person with a PhD degree uses the title “Dr”.

Placement Year/ Sandwich Year

This is a year of either work experience or study placement in another institution, which can be an optional or compulsory part of a university course. Students can opt to take their Placement Year in another country.


Plagiarism is the use or close imitation of the work of another author and claiming it is original work. Plagiarism can also occur if another author’s ideas or use of language are not referenced correctly. To avoid this, students should follow a referencing guide. Aston University uses the APA ReferencingGuide or theHarvard Referencing System. Students should check with their lecturer which one is appropriate for their work.      


A postgraduate is a student who has completed his/her first (Bachelors) degree and has progressed onto a more advanced course at university.

Postgraduate Course

These are higher level courses that are usually only available for those who have already passed their first (Bachelors) degree. Postgraduate study can lead to a Masters degree or a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma.


At Aston University, we use the word ‘programme’ to describe a degree course.


A prospectus is a booklet which gives details of degree programmes, activities and information about student life at a particular university or college.

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Quality Assurance Agency (QAA)

The Quality Assurance Agency is a government organization which assesses the quality and standards of higher education provision. Universities are assessed and scored according to their findings. (See also RAE)

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Research Assessment Exercise (RAE)

The Research Assessment Exercise evaluates the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. (See also QAA)


Halls of Residence

Universities offer first year students the opportunity to live in purpose built student accommodation often referred to as Halls of Residence.

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Sandwich course

This is an alternative name for a degree programme which incorporates a placement year.


Some Universities divide the academic year into two semesters. These are blocks of study. (See also Terms.)

Seminar (See also Tutorial)

A seminar is a small group of students and a lecturer who meet to discuss aspects of the course or a specific topic being covered in lectures.

Single Honours

This is an honours degree course in which a student studies a single subject.


Societies are groups where like-minded people can share their interests, beliefs, religion or sport.

Student Loans Company

This is the company that provides financial assistance in the form of loans to students. Loans are not paid back until after the course has been completed, and graduates are earning a salary above a certain level - currently set at £21,000

Student Loans

Loans are available from the Student Loans Company to help students pay their living and study expenses while they are at University.

Student Union

Every University has a Students’ Union (which will probably be part of the National Union of Students). The Union represents the interests of students across a whole range of issues. The Union also provides a focal point for social activities on campus for all students.


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The tariff system is a points system for entry into Higher Education. Some Higher Education institutions express their offer of a place at university in terms of a tariff point score rather than as grades. For example; 300 tariff points rather than three grade B’s at ‘A’ Level


Some Universities teach three terms in an academic year, similar to school terms. (See also Semesters)

Tuition Fees

See ‘Fees’


Tutors are the members of staff responsible for teaching students in Universities and for assisting students with their learning. (See also Lecturer).  

Tutorial (See also Seminar)

Tutorials can be on an individual or group basis. It is an opportunity for students to discuss their work, or any issues with a tutor.             


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The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, (UCAS)  is responsible for processing applications for courses at Universities and colleges in the UK.

Unconditional Offer

This is an offer made by the admissions team which is not dependent on students reaching certain targets. This is often used when a student has already taken their exams and achieved the required grades.


An undergraduate is a student who is studying for a first (Bachelors) degree.


A university is an institute of Higher Education which has the authority to award bachelors and higher degrees and which usually has research facilities.


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The term used for the holidays within the academic year, such as Christmas, Easter and summer.

Vocational A levels

These are Vocational Certificates of Education which are available in a broad range of vocational subject areas.

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