Glossary of UK educational terms

Confused by any education words and phrases you have come across? If so, use this glossary to find out what they mean

From A-levels to UCAS, and everything in between, here’s an A–Z of the UK educational terms you’ll find on this site…



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A2 Key
English language examination (formerly known as Cambridge English: Key (KET)) provided by Cambridge Assessment English. A2 Key is proof of your ability to use English to communicate in simple situations. It is focused on Level A2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and one of the examinations in Cambridge English Qualification.

Any member of teaching or research staff at a degree-awarding institution; or sometimes used as a general term for any study that is not related to preparing for a career.

academic year
Year running from September to September of the following year. Most UK courses start in September or October.

access course
One- or two-year full- or part-time course for students who are not ready to enter degree programmes. Usually features study and writing skills, English language and some study of the subject to be studied at degree level.

Process of examining various aspects of a course, such as teaching methods and facilities, to ensure they meet agreed standards.

Accreditation UK
A quality assurance scheme for UK providers of courses in English as a foreign language (EFL) which the British Council runs in partnership with English UK. Schools, colleges, and universities that offer courses in EFL can join the scheme voluntarily and members are inspected on a four-yearly basis, supported by unannounced interim visits between inspections. The scheme gives an assurance of quality to international students who are taking or are planning to take an English language course in the UK. The external inspections assure that all accredited centres meet or exceed the agreed quality standards in management, resources and environment, teaching, welfare and, where applicable, care of under 18s .

Describes a course that has been examined and approved as meeting an agreed standard.

admissions tutor
Academic officer, such as a lecturer, at a college or university who decides which applicants will be offered places. Each course or discipline at an institution has its own admissions tutor.

Advanced Higher
Scottish school-leaving qualification, usually taken at the age of 18 after Highers. Equivalent to A-levels elsewhere.

Common name for the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level certificate (GCE A level), a high school qualification studied in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by pre-university students. Normally first gained in the UK at the age of 18, but without a formal age limit. Available in many subjects. They take two years and comprise of two parts: AS-levels and A2 levels. AS-levels are awarded after one year and can be a qualification in their own right, but A-levels proper are only awarded after completing the A2. Three A-levels are often used to meet university entrance requirements.

alumni association
Association of the graduates of an institution. Means of keeping in touch with fellow students and getting news about where you studied. Some associations have overseas branches.

ancient university
Type of English and Scottish institution historically linked to the Church, and established between the 13th and 16th centuries. The Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and St Andrews are prominent examples.

Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning. Establishes the equivalent in formal qualifications of knowledge and ability gained through work and other experience. Can be used to assess whether an applicant meets entrance requirements, or whether they may be allowed to directly enter the second year of a degree programme. Not to be confused with APL (see below) or APCL (Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning).

Accreditation of Prior Learning. The recognition of, and award of, academic credit for demonstrated learning that has occurred at some time in the past. It is usually used for entry onto a programme or for course credit.

Applied GCSE
A more vocational version of the GCSE. One applied GCSE is equivalent to two conventional GCSEs.

The first part of an A-level, taking one year to study. It can be a qualification in its own right, but many students continue on to a full AS-level award.

AS-/A-level in applied subjects
A more vocational version of AS-/A-levels.

Process of considering a student’s academic ability and work through essays, examinations, interviews or other methods.

Any piece of work, such as an essay, which a student must complete and submit by a specified time for marking and grading.

A2 level
The second part of an A-level course, taking one year, needed to convert an AS-level into a full A-level.

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B1 Preliminary
English language examination (formerly known as Cambridge English: Preliminary (PET)) provided by Cambridge Assessment English. B1 Preliminary is proof you have mastered the basics of English and have practical language skills for everyday use. It is focused on Level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and one of the examinations in Cambridge English Qualification.

B2 First
English language examination (previously known as Cambridge English: First (FCE)) provided by Cambridge Assessment English. B2 First is proof you have the language skills to live and work independently in an English-speaking country or study on courses taught in English. It is focused on Level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and one of the examinations in Cambridge English Qualification.

Bachelor of Arts. A first-degree qualification.

The British Accreditation Council was established in 1984 to provide a comprehensive quality assurance scheme for independent further and higher education in the UK. Their accreditation is recognised the world over by students, agents and government officials as the clearest mark of educational quality in the private sector. Alongside the British Council, whose Accreditation UK scheme serves as the definitive guide to the UK’s English language centres, BAC have overseen the inspection of private post-16 education for over 30 years.

Bachelor’s degree
First degree usually obtained after three years or more of full-time study.

British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes. Organisation that works to develop the provision of English-language teaching for international students in higher education institutions in the UK.

Bachelor of Architecture. A postgraduate Bachelor’s degree open only to graduates with a first degree or equivalent qualification in architecture, taking two years full time or up to four years part time. Sometimes known as a ‘second undergraduate’ programme.

block release
Continuous period (usually several weeks) where an employer allows an employee time away from work to attend an educational institution.

Bachelor of Philosophy. A postgraduate Bachelor’s degree open only to graduates with a first degree in several disciplines, taking two years full time or up to four years part time. Sometimes known as a ‘second undergraduate’ programme.

bridging course
General name for any course preparing students who need to improve their academic study skills or language ability before they progress to higher-level study.

Bachelor of Science. A first-degree qualification.

The Business and Technology Education Council Body. This no longer exists independently, having merged in 1996 to form the exam board Edexcel, which was subsequently acquired by Pearson in 2013. Its name lives on in a series of vocational qualifications validated and offered by Pearson – you can study a BTEC at Level 2 or 3, either alongside academic qualifications or as part of a wider programme (such as an apprenticeship). You can also study a BTEC as a standalone course. There are over 2,000 BTEC qualifications available across 16 sectors

BTEC Apprenticeships
Vocational qualifications available at Levels 2 to 5 across more than 25 sectors.

BTEC Firsts
Available from entry level to Level 2 (similar standard to GCSEs), these offer an introduction to work in a vocational sector. Combined with other qualifications, they can enable you to go on to further study, to an apprenticeship or into employment.

BTEC Nationals
Available from Level 3 (similar standard to A-levels), with many being are well regarded by universities, further education colleges and employers. A BTEC National qualification can lead to employment, continuing study, or professional development programmes.

Financial award granted by an institution to a student. Bursaries have strict selection criteria and are usually for a fixed amount, very often less than the full cost of a course.

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C1 Advanced
English language examination (previously known as Cambridge English: Advanced and the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE)) provided by Cambridge Assessment English. C1 Advanced is proof of high-level achievement in English and is designed for learners preparing for university or professional life. It is focused on Level C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and one of the examinations in Cambridge English Qualification.

C2 Proficiency
C2 Proficiency is the highest level Cambridge English Qualification offered by Cambridge Assessment English (formerly known as Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)). It is a widely accepted English language qualification for people using English for study or professional purposes. It is focused on Level C2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

Cambridge Assessment
Established over 150 years ago, Cambridge Assessment operates and manages the University of Cambridge’s three exam boards (Cambridge Assessment English, Cambridge Assessment International Education and OCR) and carries out leading-edge academic and operational research on assessment in education. It also offers a number admissions tests for university entrance through Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing. It is a not-for-profit organisation.

Cambridge Assessment English
Provider of exams and qualifications for learners and teachers of English. Part of Cambridge Assessment (see above).

Cambridge Assessment International Education
Provider of international qualifications, offering examinations and qualifications to 10,000 schools in more than 160 countries. Part of Cambridge Assessment (see above).

Cambridge Nationals
Vocational qualifications, equivalent to GCSEs, for 14–16 year olds. Offered by the OCR exam board, which is part of Cambridge Assessment (see above).

Cambridge Pre-University (Pre-U) Diploma
A flexible, post-16 qualification aimed at giving students the skills necessary for study in higher education plus an in-depth knowledge of up to three subjects chosen from 26 covered by the Diploma. It is awarded by the Cambridge Assessment International exam board after two years’ study.

University or college grounds.

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is a guideline used to describe achievements of learners of foreign languages across Europe and, increasingly, in other countries. It was put together by the Council of Europe between 1989 and 1996. Its main aim is to provide a method of learning, teaching and assessing which applies to all languages in Europe.

Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Internationally recognised teaching qualification awarded by Cambridge Assessment English.

Of educational and other documents, officially stamped and signed by an authorised officer to prove that a document is genuine and accurate.

College of Further Education. College that offers academic and vocational courses ranging from GCSEs or equivalents to diploma or certificate courses that approach the level of first degrees. May also offer degrees validated by other institutions.

Christian organisation within a college or university, holding meetings and religious services.

College of Higher Education. College that offers academic and vocational qualifications from A-levels and equivalents to HNDs. Some also offer degrees validated by a partner university.

The Council for Independent Further Education – a professional association of English independent sixth-form colleges that provides support to its member institutions and advice to students and parents about A-levels and university entrance.

City & Guilds
Broad range of vocational qualifications offered by the City & Guilds of London Institute, an examining and accreditation body for work-related training in the UK. These qualifications are not generally used to meet university entrance requirements.

civic university
One of the universities established in the 19th and early 20th centuries in major industrial centres in the UK like Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and other big cities.

clearing (recruitment)
Process allowing applicants with no offers of places on degree programmes to secure places at institutions, which have vacancies, shortly before the start of the academic year. Begins mid-August each year.

closed examination
Examination where students are not allowed to refer to books or notes and have a specific time to complete a certain number of questions.

common room
Room used by students or staff for relaxation.

continuous assessment
System whereby academic work is marked and graded throughout a course, rather than just at the end.

Compulsory subjects or modules as opposed to optional subjects or courses.

course materials
Any material or items used on a course of study. Includes printed matter, stationery and items specifically used for one subject, such as oil paint for fine art.

Work that is done in the student’s own time, rather than in seminars or tutorials. Coursework usually counts towards a student’s final mark in their course or module. Coursework can be continually assessed.

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day release
Arrangement where an employer allows an employee to attend a part-time course, usually by taking the same day or days off work each week for the length of the course.

Doctor of Business Administration. Higher doctorate qualification.

The Department for Education. The UK government department responsible for schools and 14–19 education (where this has not been affected by devolution to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales).

Doctor of Divinity. Higher doctorate qualification.

Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Advanced English-language teaching qualification awarded by Cambridge Assessment English.

The Department for International Development. The UK government department responsible for administering UK aid programmes for developing nations. Makes academic awards to qualifying students each year.

Dip HE
Diploma of Higher Education. A university-level qualification that takes two years full-time study. Often available in work-related subject areas like nursing or accountancy.

Long essay, usually contributing to the overall mark or grade for a course.

Special honour or recognition for excellent work, as an examination grading.

Doctor of Letters. Higher doctorate qualification.

Doctor of Music. Higher doctorate qualification.

Any research degree resulting in the successful candidate being able to use the title Doctor (eg PhD, DPhil).

Doctor of Philosophy. A research-based postgraduate qualification.

Doctor of Science. Higher doctorate qualification.

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English for Academic Purposes.

European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System. European system of grading academic work in different countries so students can use work done abroad as a credit towards their degree.

European Economic Area. This is made up of all 28 European Union (EU) countries (see below), plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

English for Business. Test on the use of English in business that is recognised by employers around the world.

English for Commerce. Widely accepted English test, on use of English in business.

English as a Foreign Language.

English Language Teaching/Training.

English UK
The national association for British Council-accredited English language-teaching centres.

Process of registering as a student at the start of a course.

entrance examination
Examination or essay test set by an institution to assess an applicant’s academic ability.

Student society within an institution that organises entertainment events.

The European Commission’s programme for education, training, youth and sport for the period 2014–2020, succeeding the previous Lifelong Learning Programme (2007 – 2014). Erasmus+ offers university students a possibility of studying or doing an internship abroad in another country for a period of at least two months and maximum 12 months per cycle of studies.

English as a Second Language.

English for Specific Purposes.

Assignment consisting of an extended piece of writing. May put forward an argument and draw conclusions.

The European Union, made up of 28 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

examination board
(1) A regional or national body that validates and awards qualifications such as GCSEs, A-levels etc. (2) A committee set up within a university to oversee the marking and grading of examinations and other work by students on degree programmes.

extended essay
Essay with a word limit greater than a normal-length essay.

Extended Project
A stand-alone one-year qualification, equivalent to an AS-level, aimed at those studying A-levels and other NQF Level 3 qualifications. It is also part of the 14–19 Diploma. It is a single piece of work by a student on a topic agreed to with their teachers, in which they follow an area of interest to them in greater depth while at the same time learning research and independent learning skills.

extension degree
Four-year Bachelor’s degree that includes a foundation or preliminary year.

external examiner
Academic from another institution who checks the marks and grading of degree awards, in consultation with an institution’s own examination board.

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Further education. Non-compulsory education taken after school-leaving age (16–18 years). Usually used to describe education between school and higher education (university).

Senior member of the academic staff of a college or university.

field trip
Trip that students go on as part of their studies. Students usually have to do practical work while on the trip.

first-class honours/first
Highest grade given for first degree. An overall mark of at least 70% is needed to gain first-class honours.

foundation course
One- or two-year full- or part-time course to prepare a student for entry to a degree programme in a particular subject.

Foundation degree
A university-level vocational qualification equal to the first two years of a three-year Bachelor’s degree course. Taking two years full time (there are also part-time programmes of varying lengths), it is possible to then progress to a linked degree course on completion, with the award of a full honours degree after a further year of study.

14–19 Diploma
A two-year, flexible qualification for secondary-school students with a more vocational/practical element than GCSEs or A-levels. It will cover 17 subject areas in the next few years. It can be combined with GCSEs and A-levels or be an alternative to them.

Framework for Higher Education Qualifications
The framework within which the higher education qualifications awarded by universities and colleges in England, Wales and Northern Ireland sit.

freshers’ week
An introductory week for new university or college students which enables them to become familiar with their institution, its facilities, their course, their fellow students and the town or city they will be studying in.

full time
For a study visa, full time means attendance for at least 15 hours of organised study each week. Generally, a full-time course is one where you may be expected to attend all or part of every weekday.

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General Certificate of Secondary Education. The first qualification obtained by UK students, at the age of about 16. There is no age limit, and mature or international students may take GCSE examinations.

Graduate Management Admission Test. Examination often taken to meet entrance requirements for MBA programmes.

Grad Dip
Graduate Diploma. Qualification equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree, awarded by a small number of institutions.

Successful completion of a degree or course. Also the ceremony where students are officially given their awards.

Money awarded to a student or researcher to assist their studies.

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hall of residence
Institutional accommodation for students. Also called ’halls’. Halls provide kitchens, bed linen and other facilities. In some halls, meals are provided, others are self-catering.

hardship fund
Fund administered by a UK university or college, making small payments to students with financial difficulties.

Higher education. Study for a degree or higher-level qualification at college or university.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency. A UK national agency that collects and publishes statistical information on publicly funded higher education throughout the UK.

Scottish qualification that is taken by students aged between 16 and 18. It usually takes one year and students often then move on to Advanced Highers in the following year.

higher doctorate
Degree occasionally awarded some time after a PhD.

Higher National Certificate. Vocational course approximately equal to two or three A-levels.

Higher National Diploma. Vocational course approximately equal to the first two years of a three-year Bachelor’s degree.

honorary degree
Degree title (often a higher doctorate) awarded as an honour not for academic work, but for an outstanding contribution in another field, such as entertainment, philanthropy or community work.

Bachelor’s degrees are generally awarded as honours degrees in one of three classes, First, Second or Third, depending on the overall marks awarded. Those who reach the pass mark, but fail to attain a high enough mark to gain honours, graduate with a pass degree.

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International Baccalaureate: a two-year course approximately equal to up to six A-levels (depending on the points awarded for the IB). It is available in several countries, including the UK, and, since 2008, successful completion of an IB officially counts towards the UCAS tariff for getting into UK higher education.

The International English Language Testing System is an international standardised test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers. It is jointly managed by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English. Available worldwide, and one of the most widely accepted qualifications in the English language.

International General Certificate of Secondary Education. Equivalent to the GCSE.

During a course. For instance, you may take an in-sessional English language course during term-time to complement your other studies.

Level above basic but below advanced.

Employment a student (especially of medicine) takes to gain experience for a qualification and also to improve their chances of getting a good job after graduation.

intro week
See freshers’ week.

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Junior Common Room. Room or area set aside for the use of students. Also an organisation within a hall of residence that organises events for student residents.

joint honours
Type of first degree where a student studies two subjects in equal depth. For example English and French, or maths and computer science.

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The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry. LCCI international qualifications and diplomas, including some English language and other tests, are awarded by Education Development International (EDI), an accredited UK awarding body and international education company.

Local educational authority. Part of local government in the UK that administers education up to college level in a particular district. Universities are not governed by LEAs.

Educational talk given by a member of teaching staff to a (usually large) group of students.

live in
Living on campus, eg in a hall of residence.

live out
Living off campus, eg in a private house or rented flat.

Bachelor of Laws.

Master of Laws.

long vacation
The holiday between the years of a first-degree course, usually lasting for three months between July and October.

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Master of Arts. A postgraduate degree qualification or Scottish first degree.

Hand-written document. Completed set of examination answers or other assignment.

Master of Business Administration. Postgraduate degree in management, finance and other aspects of business.

Master of Education. A postgraduate degree qualification or Scottish first degree.

Master of Engineering. A postgraduate degree qualification or Scottish first degree.

Grade below a distinction but above a pass.

Programme of studies that consists of a number of discrete units or short courses. Students are given a mark or grade for each module and accumulate points for an overall grade for their course.

Short course taken as part of some degree programmes. Students can customise their degree programme by their choice of modules.

Master of Philosophy. A research-based postgraduate qualification.

Master of Science. A postgraduate degree qualification or Scottish first degree.

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National Qualifications
Scottish National qualifications are available from National 1 to National 5 as Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications. In broad terms, National 5 (N5) qualifications are the Scottish equivalent of the GCSE, with candidates being awarded the qualification at grades A, B, C and D. Scottish National 5 certificates grade A to C are equivalent to GCSEs grade grade 4 to 9. The courses which lead directly to the N5 qualifications only last one year. Find out more from the Scottish Qualifications Authority website.

new university
Formerly used to describe the universities founded in the 1960s (see plate-glass university), the term is now used to mean the institutions that were given university status by the UK government in 1992. Also called post-1992 or modern universities

Small magazine or booklet, describing events in a particular institution or society. Alumni associations regularly send newsletters to members throughout the world containing news items about their college.

National Health Service. The UK’s state health service, providing treatment for UK residents through a variety of means.

Student-run telephone service that offers information, listings and discusses personal issues in confidence.

The National Union of Students. If an institution’s students’ union is affiliated to the NUS, their students automatically become members of the NUS.

National Vocational Qualification. A qualification related to an area of employment.

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Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations. An exam board affiliated to Cambridge Assessment (see above).

The Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator. The body responsible for the regulation of qualifications, exams and tests in England.

open examination
Examination where the student can refer to books or notes and may be able to take the question paper away and return it by a certain time.

ordinary degree
Degree programme where successful students are not graded, but simply pass or fail. Sometimes also used in same sense as ’pass degree’.

overhead projector
Device that projects and enlarges acetates on a white screen or wall using an overhead mirror.

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part time
Course where students attend a limited number of days or evenings each week. Any course that requires less than 15 hours’ attendance a week is part time for the purposes of visa regulations.

Satisfactory mark in examination or course

pass degree
Bachelor’s degree grading with insufficient marks to earn honours.

Postgraduate Certificate in Education. Qualification allowing holder to teach in primary or secondary schools in the UK. Taken as a one-year full-time programme (or up to two years part time) after completing a Bachelor’s degree.

PG Cert
Postgraduate Certificate. A taught postgraduate qualification.

PG Dip
Postgraduate Diploma. A taught postgraduate qualification.

Doctor of Philosophy. A research-based postgraduate qualification.

To take the work/words/ideas of someone else and pretend it is your own. Universities and colleges heavily penalise anyone caught plagiarising another person’s work.

plate-glass university
Any of the UK universities established in the 1960s (formerly known as new universities until the 1990s).

Former type of degree-awarding higher education institution in the UK. All polytechnics were elevated to university status in 1992.

Collection of original work. May be assessed to contribute to the mark a student receives on their course.

Non-written work that is performed by a student either alone or as a member of a group.

pre-degree course
Any course, especially an access, foundation or certificate course taken to meet university entry requirements for a degree programme.

Short course that runs before another longer course. For example, a pre-sessional English language course may run in July and August to prepare students for a degree programme beginning in September.

private college
College that is not subsidised by the UK government, but is owned and run by private individuals.

Title sometimes given to a senior academic following several years’ successful teaching and research, and election by the senior academics at an institution.

Brochure published by a university or college advertising their institution and courses and to encourage student recruitment.

PTE Academic
The Pearson Test of English Academic is an English language test designed to assess the readiness of non-native English speakers to participate in a university-level English language instruction program.

PTE General
The Pearson Test of English General examination is a test intended for learners of English who are speakers of other languages (ESOL). PTE General integrates all four skills (listening, reading, speaking and writing) and focuses on assessing the ability of communicating in English, rather than test-taking skills. The PTE General test is not recognised for immigration purposes.

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The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency. The body responsible for the development of the curriculum and qualifications and the assessment of pupils’ performance in the English education system.

The Qualifications and Credit Framework. A framework for the recognition and accreditation of qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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Student society that raises money through fund-raising holding events, often taking place during an annual ’rag week’.

reading list
List of books students are expected to read for their particular course.

reading week
Week during term time when students are expected to concentrate on reading and studying for their course. There are usually no lectures or seminars during this period.

UK universities that were founded in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Any cafeteria, restaurant or dining room for general use in a college or university.

Person to whom enquiries about an applicant’s academic and other abilities and character can be made.

Statement (usually written) about a person’s abilities and character.

research assistant
Person (usually a postgraduate student) appointed to help an academic or team on a research project.

research associate
Co-worker on a research programme. Often someone who already has a research degree.

Research Councils
UK national councils that administer funding for research programmes in their respective disciplines.

research fellow
Senior academic whose work at an institution is mainly research and supervision of other researchers.

To re-take an examination, usually because of failure or gaining a low mark in the previous examination.

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sandwich course
Course that includes a long period of work experience. Degree sandwich courses usually last four years, with one whole year spent on a work placement.

Money award made to support a student’s education. It is often awarded on the basis of academic achievement.

Scottish Baccalaureate
A Scottish qualification aimed at brighter students in the fifth and sixth years of secondary education. There are currently two: one in science and one in languages.

Scottish Group Award
A Scottish vocational qualification that is equivalent to BTEC qualifications, which has the aim of preparing people for entry to further and higher education, training or employment.

The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework. The Scottish equivalent of the QCF (see above).

Senior Common Room. Room or area set aside for staff within an institution. Social organisation for staff of an institution.

second-class honours
Most graduates of Bachelor’s degree programmes achieve second-class honours. This grade is therefore divided into two divisions, upper and lower, written 2 i and 2 ii, 2:1 and 2:2, or 2.1 and 2.2, and usually call ’two-one’ and ’two-two’.

Spoken English for Industry and Commerce. Type of English language test. Widely accepted.

self-catering halls
Halls of residence where students have to prepare their own meals. These residences have kitchens that students share.

Accommodation in a larger building which has its own kitchen and bathroom and a private entrance.

Secure English Language Test. IELTS for UKVI is a UK government-approved SELT, as is IELTS Life Skills. If you are not making a direct application for a UK visa, you do not need to take IELTS for UKVI at a government-approved location, and you can take IELTS at any of our 1,100 test locations worldwide.

Term lasting half an academic year.

Small class where students discuss a topic with a lecturer or tutor. Questions are encouraged, but discussion is less free than in a tutorial and not everyone present will necessarily be expected to contribute to the discussion.

single honours
Type of first degree awarded for study in only one subject, such as law or medicine.

special needs
General term for any condition, physical or mental that results in someone needing special educational facilities.

Person or organisation that accepts responsibility for all or part of a student’s fees or expenses.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority. The body responsible for developing, accrediting, assessing and certifying non-degree qualifications in Scotland.

Standard Grade
The Standard Grade was the Scottish equivalent of the GCSE and was generally taken by pupils aged 16. Standard Grades have now been replaced by National 3, National 4 and National 5 courses.

student societies
Groups with a shared general interest that students join, eg rowing, photography, politics. Student societies can be political, cultural, departmental, religious or sports societies.

Abbreviation for students’ union. Also called union of students.

summer school
Courses and lectures that are held during the summer holidays.

Scottish Vocational Qualification. Scottish work-related programmes that are the equivalent of NVQs (see above).

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taught masters
Postgraduate degree that is taught in a similar way to first degrees and does not include original research.

Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

The Trans-European Mobility Programme for University Studies. An EU programme aiming to help modernise higher education in countries neighbouring the EU. Part of this involves encouraging students from countries involved to study part of their course in European universities.

Period of continuous study without holidays. In the UK, the academic year is normally split into three terms. In universities, these terms are between eight and twelve weeks long, with a long vacation in the summer months.

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Dissertation containing results of original research to support a particular argument, usually written by a candidate for an academic degree.

third-class honours
Lowest honours grading for a Bachelor’s degree. Called a ’third’.

Test of English as a Foreign Language. Internationally recognised English test, available in over 130 countries. Widely accepted by UK institutions.

Detailed list of classes or courses a student has taken at college or university, with marks or grades for each subject.

University or college lecturer who supervises the welfare and studies of assigned undergraduates.

Class for a small number of students, led by a tutor, where one topic is discussed in depth. A student may introduce the topic and everyone is expected to contribute to the discussion.

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The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. UK national organisation that administers applications for entry onto full-time UK higher-education programmes.

UCAS Teacher Training
Formerly the Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR), UCAS Teacher Training the subsidiary of UCAS responsible for student applications from graduates (and those about to graduate) to providers of Initial Teacher Training in the UK. Applications are filled out online via the UCAS website.

UK Council for International Student Affairs. UK organisation offering advice to international students.

National Academic Recognition Information Centre. UK NARIC is an organisation that gives advice on the comparability of international and UK qualifications, and promotes UK qualifications overseas.

UK Visas and Immigration is a division of the Home Office responsible for the UK’s visa system. It was formed in 2013 from the section of the UK Border Agency that had administered the visa system.

Single item or element that is part of a whole. Many courses in the UK are divided up into units.

university college
Degree-awarding institution equivalent in status to a university.

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Process of defining academic level of a course, and of setting the syllabus and standards for marking and grading. UK universities validate their own degrees.

viva (voce)
Interview between members of an examination board and a student on the material studied on a course to confirm a degree grading.

vocational qualification
Qualification aimed at preparing students for employment, usually with practical experience as part of the course.

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Person responsible for the supervision of halls of residence.

word limit
Limit to the number of words that can be written in an essay or dissertation. Varies from about 500 words to over 20,000, depending on its value in a student’s overall mark or grade for a course.

work experience
Practical experience gained on a work placement.

work placement
The part of a course that gives students the opportunity to gain practical experience of working in their chosen profession before graduation. Students may spend up to a year on work placement, especially on a sandwich course.

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