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Jargon Jungle

Push takes you on a ramble through the jargon jungle, explaining all the terms to help anyone pass themselves off as a student. We've even highlighted some of the more confusing course terms that don't tend to crop up in pre-university education — they're the ones in italics.

We've also linked to some useful web pages, but as they're nothing to do with Push, we don't take responsibility for any insults, errors or mis-use of apostrophes you may come across. Should you find anything of that nature on the Push site, though, do of course drop us a line.


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A Levels:
Duh. A Levels are the exams most students take at the end of school or college (further education) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Usually, students heading for university take three or four A levels, or the equivalent, which include AS Levels taken over two years, Highers in Scotland, the International Baccalaureate, or new qualifications such as vocational A Levels.

Accountancy/Accounting:
Not a professional qualification, just a background course giving prospective accountants the necessary insight into finance, investment, tax, management and business. These courses do not, however, give you a life.

Admissions:
The admissions office of any university or college handles the applications and enrolments. That's the department to ask for when you phone up to talk about getting in.

Alumni:
'Old boys' and 'old girls', but they're not called that in case they don't give the university any money after they've left. Singular: alumnus. Feminine singular: alumna. Feminine plural: alumnae. Neuter ablative plural: go ask a Latin student.

American Studies:
Often dismissed as a doss subject (eg 'you just watch films and listen to old jazz records') this is a multi-disciplinary subject, covering the culture (?), history and current affairs of the US. Usually includes a period spent in the States - a big draw for people who like Oreo cookies, country music and drive-by shootings.

Archaeology:
You might think 3 years risking the wrath of disturbed Egyptian mummies is a cool way to spend a degree course, but archaeology courses are more 'Time Team' than 'Indiana Jones', using a combination of history, science, languages and other disciplines, as well as practical fieldwork.

Architecture:
Architecture requires a combination of technical knowledge of forms and structures (sciencey) with creative and aesthetic talents (arty), as well as history, economics, environmental studies and upsetting Prince Charles.

Art(s):
Arts subjects include pretty much anything creative. You know, painting, drama, music and all that. It often overlaps with humanities.

Athletics Union/Sports Union:
The student organisation that runs student sports clubs and sometimes sports facilities. They're usually hot-beds of sexism, alcohol abuse and hairy chests... and that's just the women.

Awards:
Most students get awards, but unfortunately there's no big Oscars-style ceremony because these awards are basically the new version of what used to be called grants. Students get awards from their local education authority or equivalent to pay towards their university tuition costs.

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Bachelor:
of... Arts, Science, Education, Engineering, etc. At English and Welsh universities, this is the degree most undergraduate students are heading for. When you get it, you can put BA, BSc, BEd, BEng or whatever else is appropriate at the end of your name, but if you feel you have to boast about it like that, most people will think you're a nob.

Balls:
Big black-tie and posh frock parties, of course. Why? What did you think I'd say? Many student balls include not only a slap-up dinner and much drinking, but also bands (often including quite big has-been names), discos, casinos, fun fairs, cabaret acts, fortune-tellers, snogging and vomiting. Hardy ball-goers often party all night and occasionally the event is rounded off with a champagne breakfast and 'survivors' photo' (not a pretty sight).

Bops:
A dance night more in the school disco style than a hardcore club night.

Botany:
The plant bit of Biology.

BUSA:
The British Universities Sports Association.

Business Studies:
The study of business, obviously (doh!), but it also includes maths and economics and, less predictably, bits of psychology and sociology. And what with Europe and all that stuff, languages are becoming increasingly unavoidable.

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Campus:
The area of land on which a collection of college buildings are built. So, a campus university is one built entirely or mainly on a single campus. A civic campus is a campus in a town. And a greenfield campus is not. Just to confuse things, some universities use 'campus' as a synonym for 'site' and vice versa, so it could mean anything from a single building to an almost entirely separate college.

Cap.:
Capacity.

CATS (Credit Accumulation Transfer Scheme):
Allows students to gather credits for individual modules and is a more flexible way to get formal qualifications. The more credits you earn, the higher the qualification you can 'swap' them for. You need 360 credits to earn a Bachelor degree.

CDL:
Career Development Loan. A deferred-payment bank loan a bit like a student loan, but aimed at those who aren't entitled to help from the LEA, whose employers aren't already footing the bill and who can't afford to pay the fees themselves. Click here for the rules and regs.

Chaplain:
Chaplains hang around universities offering religious guidance and support to those who want it. They usually come in a variety of religious flavours.

Clearing:
Each year after the A levels are published, many students find they haven't got the place they wanted and many universities find they haven't filled their courses. Having participated in a sophisticated applications and admissions process up to then, the universities and students throw caution to the wind and try to shove square pegs into round holes. Clearing tends not to result in the best possible matches.

Convocation:
A fancypants term for graduation, the formal ceremony when you receive your degree.

Court:
The Cambridge term for a quad.

CofE:
Church of England.

College:
A vague word that could mean (a) a sixth form college where students do A levels, (b) a semi-self-contained unit in a collegiate university, (c) an institution of higher education that isn't allowed to call itself a university or (d) any university, college of higher education, its buildings and/or its administrative authorites.

Combined honours degree:
An undergraduate degree course that involves several subject areas — usually three — in approximately equal parts (to start with at any rate).

CofS:
Church of Scotland.

CUKAS:
Conservatoires UK Admissions Service like UCAS but for admission to conservatoires (that's music schools, not a type of sun lounge).

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Degree:
A higher education qualification of a certain level. They split into undergraduate degrees or first degrees which are usually Bachelorships and various postgraduate degrees (masters, doctorates, PGCEs and so on). A university isn't a university if it doesn't teach degrees although some do other higher education qualifications too like Higher National Diplomas (HNDs).

Department:
Most universities break down different subject areas into departments and students 'belong' to whatever department teaches their course. It gets more complicated if they study more than one subject, because they may end up in several departments. Some universities don't have departments, they have schools or faculties instead (or even as well), but they're basically the same thing.

Desmond:
Slang for a lower-second class honours degree, ie, a Desmond Tutu (two-two. Geddit?). For the record, a first is known as 'a Geoff' (Hurst), a 2.i is 'an Attila' (the Hun) and a third is 'a turd'. Don't blame Push if you get a third — we didn't invent the rules of Cocker-nee rhyming slang.

DfES:
The Department for Education and Skills

Dons:
Dons are Mafia bosses, but in the context of universities, particularly Oxbridge, they're more likely to be lecturers, tutors or other academics who do teaching.

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Economics:
Economists will tell you that their subject is 'the study of the allocation of scarce resources'. In fact, they mean it's about the way money changes hands, affecting society (and managing never to reach you and me).

Education:
A Bachelor of Education degree trains teachers to teach, within a specialised field at any rate (usually determined by age group, academic subject, or both). Some take a 'normal' first degree (BA, BSc, etc) instead and study for a further year to get a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE). Either way, after four years of being a student, they know how to work for low pay and look moth-eaten.

Engineering:
Engineering is the study of how to create things that make people's lives easier/healthier/safer/better. There are sub-divisions such as: Chemical Engineering (studying how materials change); Civil Engineering (transport, sewage, public buildings, etc); Electrical Engineering and so on. Engineers usually work phenomenally hard, play 'Quake' for hours, and tell you that their subject is 'really interesting, actually'.

Ents:
Short for entertainments, which are usually run by the students' union and include such larks as gigs, hypnotists and, if you're unlucky, karaoke.

Environmental Studies:
A relatively new discipline that takes bits of biology, chemistry, geology and social sciences and investigates how environmental problems occur, how to prevent them and how to chain yourself to a bulldozer.

European Studies:
French, Spanish and Italian aren't just languages, nowadays there are courses which combine learning how to talk with learning something to talk about. A French course might include bits about French culture, business, law, history and Thierry Henri's tackling techniques.

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Faculty:
Old lecturers never die, they just lose their faculties. Universities are usually divided into departments (see above). Just in case these departments feel lonely, they're allowed to club together into faculties. So, the physicists join their chemistry and biology chums in a Science Faculty and the musicians get together with the drama luvvies in an Arts Faculty and everybody's happy. Except the lawyers, who usually have a Faculty on their own. Maybe they smell.

FC:
Free Church.

Finals/Finalists:
Finals are the exams in the final year of study that decide whether or not the last 3 or 4 years have been worth living in abject poverty for. Hence, finalists are students in their final year with their heads on the exam block.

First:
Not something you get when you don't drink enough water but the -scoring honours degree.

Flunking:
To flunk is to drop out of university or fail. Hence the proportion of students who do it is the flunk rate. For the record, Push calculates its flunk rates based on the Higher Education Standards Authority's Table T3, which is a party in a spreadsheet.

Formals:
Posh universities and colleges sometimes have formal dinners where students are supposed to dress up sometimes in black tie, sometimes in suits or sometimes in gowns over their combats and T-shirts. Such formals may be compulsory or voluntary or they may be so popular that students have to sign up to attend (especially if the formal's followed by ents of some sort). Some places have formals every night, some have them only once a term.

Foundation degree:
A relative newby — they've been on offer since 2001 — these are employment-related courses studied over two years (if taken full time, but part of the lure is the flexible approach). While a university might offer a foundation degree, its content might be planned and even taught by an employer. For more info, see www.foundationdegree.org.uk.

Freshers:
Freshers are first year students in their first few weeks - when the pace is faster than curry through a dog with diarrhoea and the main topics of conversation are home towns, A level grades and UCAS codes. During students' time as freshers, they are likely to spend 99% of their student loan, join student clubs whose events they never attend and get stupidly drunk most nights. After 3 weeks of this, they are hungover, broke and wiser - ie. fully-fledged students.

Freshers' Week:
Also known as Week One, Orientation Week, Intro Week and 'Cyril' for all I know, this is the first week of the first term of the first year of a student's university career. It's packed with events and ents designed to help students settle in, make friends and to tell them everything they need to know about how the university and students' union work. In the process, they tend to both drink and spend too much, but have a damn good time. See Freshers, above.

Freshers' fair:
The freshers' fair usually happens in the first week. It's a chance for university clubs & societies to shake their wares and show students what's on offer. Students are bombarded with flyers, freebies and bribes containing varying quantities of sugar, and sign up for everything from the football team to underwater tiddlywinks. Most of these they'll never attend, but some will turn into regular (and hopefully pleasant) distractions from work.


Further education (FE):
Further education is what comes after primary and secondary education. In other words it's usually what 16 to 18 year-olds do. In yet other words, it's A levels, Highers and the like. And in other, other, other words, it's what you have to do to be qualified to go on to higher education (universities and the like).

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Gap year:
Many students decide to take a year off - or a gap year - after school or college and before going to university. This is best not spent in front of the TV, but getting work experience, earning money, travelling or doing something exciting or mind-expanding. Or a mixture of all of the above.

Geology:
Geologists study the structure of the earth and the rocks, fossils, minerals and all the general gunk that's in it.

Graduand:
A student in the few months between finishing their course and being awarded their degree.

Graduate:
Someone who's successfully completed a degree. A graduate student is a glutton for punishment who's embarking on another degree, usually a postgraduate degree.

Graduation:
Also known as convocation. When you're officially awarded your degree.

Grants:
Government cash which contributes towards living costs for full-time students (the 'maintenance grant') or fees for part-time students. They're means-tested, so what you actually get depends on what your parents earn. But, if you're entitled to grant money, you don't have to pay it back. Ever. Push like.

GTTR (Graduate Teacher Training Registry):
The GTTR processes applications for PGCE courses

Guild of Students/Students' Guild:
Another name for a students' union.

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Hack:
Not the sound of a bad cough or a lozenge to cure it, but a person who is utterly committed to their extra-curricular activities. Usually refers to those involved in SUs or student journalism. You can tell a hack because they are the ones claiming everyone else is apathetic.

Halls:
At most colleges, when students talk about halls, they mean 'halls of residence', the accommodation blocks, which traditionally provide catered meals (but increasingly are becoming self-catered), cleaners, heat, light and electricity and a variety of amenities such as launderettes, common rooms and TV lounges. Oxbridge, of course, has to be different. At Oxford or Cambridge, halls are the formal dining rooms.

Head tenancy scheme:
Rather than handing out cardboard boxes or have students cluttering up the gym floor, some colleges have started to do the house-hunting themselves. They get a group of landlords together, rent all their brick boxes that pretend to be homes and then sublet them to students, often at cheaper rates or on better terms.

HESA:
The Higher Education Statistics Agency — higher education number crunchers. Push uses HESA's official statistics wherever possible, such as in the flunk rate or when telling you the numbers of students in the institution profiles.

Higher education (HE):
After primary school, there's secondary school, then further education and, finally, higher education which takes place at universities, colleges of higher education and so on. HE includes undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, higher national diplomas (HNDs) and a few other things like certain vocational qualifications (such as LCPs for lawyers, for instance).

Highers:
In Scotland, students take Highers as the equivalent of A Levels.

HND:
The Higher National Diploma is based on vocational studies, generally aimed at prepping students for a particular career or industry. It can lead on to, or count towards, a degree course.

Honours degree:
When people boast about having an honours degree, don't be too impressed. Most degrees are honours degrees and, depending on how you do in your exams or coursework, are split into: first class honours (or firsts), upper second class or 2.i (pronounced 'two-one'), lower-second class or 2.ii (a 'two-two', more commonly called a 'Desmond') and third class honours, or a third. If a student does badly, but not quite badly enough to fail, that's when they might not get an honours degree, but an ordinary degree instead.

Humanities:
The study of human creative endeavour, whether it's literature, art, music or whatever. 'Richard & Judy' probably doesn't count. Humanities aren't quite the same as actually doing the creative bit, ie The Arts (which includes almost anything likely to get Lottery funding).

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Intro Week:
Another name for Freshers' Week.

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Jobshop:
A student employment agency usually run by the students' union. Apart from advertising vacancies, jobshops are sometime more proactive and actually look for appropriate paid work for students. They also sometimes check that the employer's not a crooked slave-driver and impose minimum pay and conditions. Unlike most job agencies, they usually don't take a cut and often students get work in the jobshop or students' union itself.

Joint Honours:
Not an honours degree in cooking big roasts or rolling spliffs, but, like a combined honours degree a course involving more than one subject. In this case, two subjects.

Junior Common Room (JCR):
Another name for a students' union, but usually quite a modest affair such as in a Oxbridge college of a hall of residence. It's also usually a real common room too for undergrad students.

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Law:
An LLB course will not qualify a student to don a silly wig and act like Kavanagh QC. In theory, it teaches the workings of the legal system (usually the English one) and how laws are applied. It also includes the skills and methods that the legal profession requires, such as learning to shout “you can't handle the truth!”. Not all law degrees are qualifying law degrees — meaning you'll still need to sit the Common Professional Examination (CPE). Even with an undergrad law degree under your belt you'll need to do further vocational training to become a barrister or solicitor.

LEA:
Your friendly, neighbourhood Local Education Authority. See means testing.

Learning Resources Centre (LRC):
In the old days (when there were Tories in Scotland) universities used to have libraries (which had books in them) and computer rooms (which had computers). Now they're just as likely to have LRCs, which are basically libraries but with more emphasis on non-booky facilities such as e-journals, PC access and multimedia archives.

Lecture:
Someone once defined a lecture as the process of transferring words from the notes of the lecturer to the student without passing through the brain of either. Lectures are one of the main teaching mechanisms of universities. They tend to be larger than a regular school class and less interactive. (Seminars are closer to school classes.) Usually attendance is not compulsory, but missing them isn't likely to help your studies.

Lecturer:
Apart from the obvious - ie. someone who gives a lecture - lecturers are academics at a certain level in the hierarchy well above postgraduates but below professors and deans.

LGBT:
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. To see which universities have LGBT support groups and societies, check out the university profiles or the league tables.

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Mature students:
It is not necessarily true that mature students behave any more maturely than conventional ones. Nor are they necessarily old fogeys - some are as young as 21 - but, generally, they are older than most other students and are probably returning to education rather than being fresh out of school. (Having a year out counts as being fresh, having 10 years out living in a brothel doesn't.)

Means-testing:
Local Education Authorities assess how much money students have at their disposal before handing out any money for their tuition fees. Similarly student loans are based on a means test. However it may seem, they're not called that because they're trying to see how mean they can be.

Media Studies:
A heavily over-subscribed course, often by students who think (i) it'll get them straight into the BBC or Hollywood or (ii) it's a doss course. Both are wrong. Media courses usually cover practical and theoretical training in all areas of mass communication and while the experience and contacts might give students an edge in pursuit of a glittering career full of men with pony-tails, unfortunately, life-membership of the Groucho Club is not automatic and there are many other routes to media infamy.

Middle Common Room (MCR):
Like a Junior Common Room, but for postgrads only.

Modular courses:
A sort of pick'n'mix course comprising a number of components (modules), either within just one department or across a range of subjects.

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1994 Group:
A band of about 20 universities that likes to think of themselves as fairies on top of the Christmas tree of higher education. Like the better-known Russell Group, there's some truth to their claims because they attract a lot of moolah for research and have high teaching standards. Although a couple of universities have joined both groups (more party invitations, we suppose), the 1994 Group universities tend to be slightly smaller, which one could argue, makes them less prestigious. As all the other universities move to jump on the clique bandwagon, there's also the N8 Group, see below.

N8 Group:
A collective of eight research-heavy universities in northern England, including Durham, Lancaster and York. Not as shouty as the Russell Group, but with a substantial cash pile to back up scientific poking about in Ageing & Health and Sustainable Water Use.

NHS:
The National Health Service.

Nightline:
All students have times when the skin on the cup of cocoa of life is just a bit too thick and Nightline services, available in most colleges worth their salt, are there for those times. They are telephone counselling services, a bit like the Samaritans, run (usually) by students for students.

NMAS:
The Nursing and Midwifery Admissions Service. NMAS process applications for nursing and midwifery courses at higher education institutions in England.

Non-completion/non-progression rate:
A politer term for what we at Push call the flunk rate (see flunking).

NUS:
The National Union of Students, run by students who never grew up, provides research, welfare information and services to SUs which are affiliated. NUS is also the national body which represents and campaigns on behalf of students.

NUS Card:
You'll get your NUS card from your students' union. Guard it with your life: it can get you into nightclubs and museums for free or money off very useful things like undies, train tickets, books or even (most importantly) booze.

NVQ:
The National Vocational Qualification is usually taken when you've already got a job (or work experience) and, basically, it's a bit like your boss sending you off to study — but only the bits she really wants you to learn. They're taught at an industry-agreed standard, so employers in those industries can be keen if you've got one on your CV.

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Open days:
An opportunity for prospective students to be shown around the university. Beware only being shown the good parts and take the opportunity to talk to the inmates, er, students.

Ordinary degree:
An 'ordinary degree' is somewhat less than ordinary, because most students get an honours degree. You only get an ordinary degree if either you decide to aim lower for some reasons or you fail an honours degree, but don't fail so badly you get nothing.

Oxbridge:
The collective name for the two oldest universities in the country, Oxford and Cambridge, both collegiate, both traditional, both highly respected (not least by themselves). It's strange that Camford never caught on.

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Personal tutors/Moral tutors:
At many, if not most, universities, students are assigned to a personal tutor who is charged with responsibilities beyond the purely academic. The extent of their remit and of their usefulness varies enormously. Some have regular meetings to discuss everything from exams to sex, others introduce themselves to their tutees at the beginning of their college career with some Le Piat D'Or and limp cheese and don't see them again till graduation day. Sometimes they're called moral tutors, but expecting academics to give moral guidance is like asking a fish to run a marathon.

PGCE:
A Postgraduate Certificate in Education is a one-year postgraduate course that graduates can take and which qualifies them to become teachers. At the moment, most students get six grand just for doing the course and might get their student loan paid off too if they go on to become a teacher in a subject where there's a shortage. A PGCE's not the only way to become a teacher - you can also do a four-year Bachelor of Education undergrad degree.

Philosophy:
'What is philosophy?' is a philosophical question, but, ever ready to ponder even the deepest mysteries, Push's definition is that it's about asking the complex questions behind other subjects. Without necessarily expecting an answer. So, when philosophers ask 'Does God exist?', they're more interested in the ideas and argument involved, than His fax number (for that you want theology).

Politics:
Of course, nobody with the intelligence and decency to read The Push Guide would want to become anything as vile as a politician, but you might wish to study how these creatures operate. Politics (aka Political Studies, Government, etc) uses elements of history, economics, statistics and more to investigate how people govern themselves and each other and whether Gordon Brown will ever smile.

Polytechnic (Poly):
Once upon a time there was something called 'the binary divide' which distinguished between universities and polytechnics. It never meant much anyway and now it means nothing at all. Polytechnics tended to have a slant towards vocational courses and an often unfair reputation for lower academic standards than universities. Now they've all become universities themselves, but the old poly prejudices seem to linger about like last week's dirty socks, again somewhat unfairly.

Postgraduate/postgrad:
A student doing a postgraduate degree, ie. they've already got one degree and now they're doing another higher one such as a masters degree, a doctorate (PhD) or a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE).

Practical:
A form of teaching, or probably more accurately, of learning, usually used in sciencey type subjects. It involves doing experiments and the like.

Professor:
A big cheese in an academic department - often the head - but, at any rate, someone who has climbed the brain hierarchy.

Psychology:
If, at university, you ever get pestered by students wielding clipboards and asking intimate questions about sexuality and your favourite colour, chances are they're either chatting you up or they're psychologists (or both). Psychology is the study of the way people think and behave, using elements of biology, sociology, maths and other disciplines. And sometimes they make wee little mazes for rats to run around in.

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Quad:
A square surrounded by buildings, usually covered in grass and commonly found in Oxbridge colleges. Only at Cambridge they call them courts, just to be difficult.

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Rag:
Rag (from 'Raise and Give') is an excuse to dress up in stupid clothing and get up to wacky, irresponsible and sometimes illegal antics - and all in the name of charity. Collectively, student charity Rags raise millions of pounds with stunts like parachute jumps, sponsored hitch-hikes and so-called Rag raids where students (usually dressed as rabbits, the Cheeky Girls, characters from Rocky Horror, etc) accost strangers in the street and try to sell them 'Rag magazines'. Rag mags are tackily printed joke books, which usually fulfil one of two conditions: either, they are not very funny, or they're in appalling bad taste, or both.

Rah:
aka Yah or Sloane. Certain universities - Oxbridge, Durham, Bristol and Exeter spring to mind - tend to attract a certain sort of posh student, ex-public school, dressed in country casuals (and probably able to say what 'country casuals' means) and, when gathered in herds, from a distance their braying makes a 'ra, ra, ra' sound. Hence the name. They're harmless enough, but if you're not one of them, you may almost certainly find them inexplicably irritating.

RC:
Roman Catholic.

Redbrick:
A redbrick building or campus does not necessarily have to have a single red brick. Instead, it refers to a style of building, or a period from around the turn of the century through to the Second World War. What redbrick means is not very precise, but what it doesn't mean is easier to explain. A campus is described as redbrick if it isn't an Oxbridge rip-off or a modern concrete monstrosity.

Russell Group:
A band of 20 universities, including Oxbridge, that like to think of themselves as the whipped cream on the top of the frappuccino of lesser universities. It's true that they have cornered a big share if the research funding and they do tend to have excellent teaching. It would be fair to label them 'elite' (or even 'elitist'), but the word 'best' shouldn't be bandied about without extreme care. See also the 1994 Group.

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Sabbatical (sabb):
Every year at most colleges, a few students either take a year off their studies or hang around after them because they've got nothing better to do. In the meantime they are employed (sub-peanut wages) by various student bodies, such as SUs, Rags, newspapers, athletics unions and so on. Not just anyone can do this though - they almost always have to be elected by the other students, who then spend the rest of the sabbatical's year of office wondering why they ever voted for them. Just like real politics.

Sandwich course:
Not a catering course (although, come to think of it, you could do a sandwich course in catering), but a course that involves vocational experience. So, the bread in a sandwich course is academic study and the filling is a work placement usually in business or industry. Usually it takes a year to fill a sandwich (as a result, most last 4 years), but there are thin and thick versions that involve different amounts of filling dispersed between different thicknesses of bread. Push eagerly awaits the introduction of toasted and club sandwich courses.

Semester:
A semester is the American word for a term and is used in Britain to describe American-style college terms that are longer (usually about 15 weeks) than British ones (between 8-11 weeks). Generally speaking, universities have either two semesters or three terms.

Seminar:
A teaching class, overseen by a lecturer, in which anything from half a dozen to about 35 student discuss and maybe even do exercises. Sound familiar? They're rather similar but larger than tutorials.

Senior Common Room (SCR):
Like a Junior or Middle Common Room, but this is for the fully qualified academics and the emphasis is exclusively on the room itself and a few clubby activities rather than any kind of students' union or representative role.

Single honours:
An undergraduate degree involving one main subject.

SLC:
Student Loans Company.

SNP:
Scottish National Party.

Social science:
A social science is any subject which uses scientific methods to study human society, rather than the natural world. Originally regarded as a soft option, some social scientists can now earn big wads by going on the telly and talking lots.

Sociology:
The study of how people operate within social groups (eg families, schools, football crowds). Sociologists have to use a variety of skills, such as dealing with data and statistics. Sociology still has an undeserved reputation as a dumping ground for left-wing under-achievers, but it's as intellectually rigorous (and attractive to employers) as any other social science subject.

Socs:
Short for 'societies', these are the student clubs which range from serious political battlegrounds to sporting teams, from cultural groups to seriously silly socs, such as the Rolf Harris Appreciation Club and Up Shit Creek Without A Paddle Soc - both genuine.

Students' Association (SA):
Just another name for a students' union really. Common in Scotland.

Students' Union (SU):
Almost all colleges have a students' union and students are usually automatically members, though they can opt out if they wish. As a rule, an SU is usually a services and representative organisation run by students for students or the building in which such services are housed.

Students' Representative Council/Committee (SRC):
Yet another name for a students' union or part of one, especially the part that focuses on representation.

SU:
A students' union.

Subsidiary course:
A course that acts as a side dish to the main course usually in a single honours course.

SWSS:
Socialist Workers' Student Society.

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Tariff:
The list of points you score for each of your further education qualifications. Collect enough points and you might have enough to get into a particular degree at a particular university. Points on their own don't make prizes though - so don't skimp on your application and personal statement.

Theology:
The study of God, gods and religion.

Thesp:
An arty-farty acting type.

Top-up fees:
The tuition fees that universities are now allowed to directly charge students in most parts of the UK — before, your LEA would usually stump up. What you have to pay varies at each university and on how much you or your parents earn, though they're currently capped at three grand.

Town/Gown:
An expression which describes the relationship between locals and the student and academic staff community. People say 'town/gown' even though students these days are more at home in a GAP T-shirt and a pair of scuffed Skechers than a gown and mortar board. Come Graduation Day, though, students are geared up in 'subfusc', as the outfit is called, and photos are taken of them. Embarrassment guaranteed.

Tutee:
A student whose work (and/or well-being) is overseen by a particular tutor. It's pronounced more like 'chew tea' than like 'tutty'.

Tutor:
An academic who oversees or supervises the work of individual students (tutees).

Tutorial:
A small group of students - definitely no more then five otherwise it's a seminar whatever they claim - who meet up with a tutor and discuss their studies. If they're lucky, students get one-to-one tutorials which are a great opportunity to discuss individual ideas, thoughts and problems with work.

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u'grads:
Push shorthand for 'undergraduates'. Well, d'uh.

UCAS:
The Universities & Colleges Admissions Service is the organisation that handles most university applications. Prospective students fill out a UCAS form online (or on paper) and submit it to UCAS who send it to the universities the student wants to apply to. Various complications ensue, but eventually the student either gets accepted or not and UCAS oversees the process to check no one finds themselves with more than one place and to try to match students with vacancies as efficiently as possible.

ULU:
University of London Union.

Undergraduate:
A student doing their first degree.

Union:
Usually this is just another name for a students' union or the building in which the students' union and/or it's facilities and services are based. As such, it's often the students' main hang-out on campus. However, at Oxbridge (and various other universities that just have to be awkward), the Union might also be the Union Society, a debating club with some highly exclusive (even elitist) facilities attached.

University:
Not nearly as easy to define as you might have thought, although officially a UK university has to be founded by Parliamentary Statute. There are plenty of places like certain university colleges and places like King's College London (and other colleges of London University) that deserve the name as much as many of the places that have it. The long and the short of it is that a university is a place to get a higher education.

University College:
Officially, a college that has the power to award its own degrees, but isn't a fully-fledged university, or a college run by a fully-fledged university. HE colleges which are independent, but whose degrees are rubber-stamped by a university, aren't allowed to use the 'University' bit, but to the student on the ground they're pretty much the same thing.

URC:
United Reform Church.

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Vice-Chancellor:
Aka principals, wardens, masters etc. These are the big cheeses - the Stilton amongst the Dairyleas of academia. Students rarely get to meet them, but basically they run the place. Where there are vice-chancellors, there are also chancellors, who are the token heads of the institutions and usually B-list celebs but usually don't do much more than shake students' hands at the graduation ceremony. The allegations that vice-chancellors have anything to do with vice are entirely unfounded.

Vocational course:
Any course that is intended at least to train students for a particular profession, career or job. They often involve practical experience in a work environment, such as placements, or doing projects similar to what goes on in real world jobs.

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Women's Studies (aka Gender Studies):
A multi-disciplinary subject that studies how women (and men) are treated in fields as diverse as law, history and health and the reasons for gender differences in behaviour, communication, pay and more. Oh, and men are allowed to apply.

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Zoology:
The animal bit of biology.

Last updated on: 04 November 2014

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