Do you know your bops from your balls? Or your CATS from your CUKAS?
Heading into the world of higher education can be like learning a new language – there's more jargon than you can shake a soc at. That's why we've created this handy glossary of all the weird and wonderful terms academics like to use. Let Push be your guide.
You'll need us. Honestly, it's a jungle out there.
A common route into a career. Instead of going off to study and sit in seminars and lectures every week, you work at a company earning money while you learn. The company may even pay you to go to college once or twice a week. This is usually over the course of a few years until you become fully qualified.
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 an idiot.
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).
The British Universities Sports Association.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Chaplains hang around universities offering religious guidance and support to those who want it. They usually come in a variety of religious flavours.
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.
A fancy-pants term for graduation, the formal ceremony when you receive your degree.
The Cambridge term for a quad.
Church of England.
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 authorities.
Combined honours degree:
An undergraduate degree course that involves several subject areas — usually three — in approximately equal parts (to start with at any rate).
Church of Scotland.
Conservatoires UK Admissions Service like UCAS but for admission to conservatoires (that's music schools, not a type of sun lounge).
When applying for a job role they usually ask for a covering letter alongside your CV. A covering letter is meant to accompany your CV, explaining in one page how your skills in your CV make you a good fit for the role you’re applying for. Every role you apply to will require a new one of these so get ready to write a lot of them.
Curriculum Vitae in Latin but in English it is a 1-2 page document that shows your work experience and education history as well as your personal skills and interests. This is usually the first thing an employer or university sees about you so make sure it’s selling you well.
A higher education qualification of a certain level. They split into undergraduate degrees or first degrees which are usually Bachelorships degrees (masters, doctorates, and various postgraduate 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).
A relatively new type of learning which sees you earning while you learn (the apprenticeship part) while also completing qualifications, which award you a degree-equivalent qualification. The same thing your friends who went off to University instead have.
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.
The Department for Education and Skills
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.
Or the EuRopean community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students. The name just about works. An EU student exchange programme that supports uni students who want to study abroad within the European Union. All sorts of funding is up for grabs.
A (usually optional) programme that makes up part of your degree. For a certain amount of time, your university pretty much trades you for an international student, and you temporarily take their place in their home institution.
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 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.
Not something you get when you don't drink enough water but the top-scoring honours degree.
To flunk is to drop out of university or fail. Hence the proportion of students who do it is the flunk rate.
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.
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.
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 – i.e. fully-fledged students.
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.
The dreaded viral concoction that makes its rounds in the days following fresher’s week. Lots of vitamin deficient, hungover young people dragging in special germs from all across the country/wider world makes for lots of under the weather freshers. Combat with early nights, veggies and Vitamin C tablets.
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 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.
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).
Not your granny’s fanciest frock. This is the big black, baggy sleeved robes with their coloured hoods (depending on your faculty and qualification) that make up the academic regalia proudly worn at your graduation ceremonies. Comes with a mortarboard (see below) to perfect the wise old academic look.
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.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England is known as HEFCE, pronounced 'heff-key', to its friends of which it has many as it's the Government agency that hands out money to the unis. Or the ones in England at least – there are similar bodies for the rest of the UK. It does other things too like promoting going to university under the banner of Aim Higher and doing research to check all is tickety-boo in the world of unis.
The Higher Education Statistics Agency — higher education number crunchers.
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).
In Scotland, students take Highers as the equivalent of A Levels.
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.
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.
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, i.e. The Arts (which includes almost anything likely to get Lottery funding).
Like single-honours, except you studying two different subjects, earning equal credits in both to get your degree.
The most common form of teaching at uni. This is where a teacher, tutor or lecturer, (whatever you want to call them) stands at the front and talks on a specific topic or subject area from an hour upwards, and you take notes.
Otherwise known as a postgraduate degree, masters are the next brick in the academic wall after an undergrad. Usually a year long, and funded (up to £10k) by Student Finance England.
The funky board-topped hat you get to rent for an hour or two to prove you know your stuff. Usually worn alongside a gown at graduation ceremonies, but we won’t judge if you want one all year round.
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.
The percentage of the students who start uni each year, but do not carry on to the second year.
The National Health Service.
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.
The Nursing and Midwifery Admissions Service. NMAS process applications for nursing and midwifery courses at higher education institutions in England.
A politer term for what we at Push call the flunk rate.
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.
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.
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.
This usually accompanies your CV on an application for University. In this you tell the university about your interests and ambitions and tell them why you want to study at their institution. These are quite daunting (who likes writing about themselves except complete narcissists?) but are sadly a necessary evil.
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.
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.
'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).
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.
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.
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).
A form of teaching, or probably more accurately, of learning, usually used in science-y type subjects. It involves doing experiments and the like.
Unlike a government funded uni, private unis are an entity of their own. They rely on tuition to run, so student satisfaction is high on the priority list. They also can charge whatever they want, which can either be a blessing or a curse.
A big cheese in an academic department - often the head - but, at any rate, someone who has climbed the brain hierarchy.
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.
A week that nearly never consists of reading. Essentially half term for students, which may or may not include some expectation of work.
Like the name suggests, a course (usually a type of degree) that is based on your own research rather than teaching.
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.
A degree course that’s split up with two years of academic work on campus, and a year of work in the industry.
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.
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.
An undergraduate degree involving one main subject.
Student Loans Company.
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.
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.
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.
A students' union.
A course that acts as a side dish to the main course usually in a single honours course.
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.
Courses that are, as the name suggests, based on teaching rather than research.
The study of God, gods and religion.
A student whose work (and/or well-being) is overseen by a particular tutor. It's pronounced more like 'chew tea' than like 'tutty'.
An academic who oversees or supervises the work of individual students (tutees).
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.
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.
UCAS Extra is a service run by UCAS that allows you to apply for individual courses, if you’ve already applied to university and haven’t been made any offers, or have declined the offers you have got. You can apply for courses with vacancies between the end of February and the end of June.
A student doing their first degree.
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.
A Higher Education action group. They're the safety net for universities' interests.
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.
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.
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 above.
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