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Jargon Buster


AS-level (alternative term)


Second half of an A-level

Access courses

These prepare students without the standard entry qualifications (particularly mature students) for a degree course.


Advanced Higher levels, Scottish qualification taken in school; recognised by universities towards satisfying their entrance requirements


Allied health professions


Advanced level, qualification taken in school and widely recognised by universities towards satisfying their entrance requirements


Assessment of Prior (Experiential) Learning


Advanced Subsidiary level, qualification taken in school, and widely recognised by universities towards satisfying their entrance requirements

Assembly Learning Grant

A non-returnable grant made to students resident in Wales from low-income families.

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Bachelor degree

Most first degrees lead to a Bachelor degree. Depending on the course, once you have graduated, you can put designated initials after your name – most usually BA (Bachelor of Arts) or BSc (Bachelor of Science) but also eg BEd (Bachelor of Education), BN (Bachelor of Nursing) or LLB (Bachelor of Laws).

British Council

The British Council offers information and advice for international students studying in the UK. It also now runs the Erasmus scheme in the UK (which provides UK students with EU financial support for study elsewhere in the EU)


British Film Institute


Department for Business, Innovation & Skills is the government department concerned with universities in England


British Universities & Colleges Sports Association


This is non-returnable money available from universities for certain students − usually those from low-income families or from other vulnerable groups. Government bursaries are also available to eg students on health courses (NHS bursaries); and student grants are called bursaries in Scotland.

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Career Development Loan

CDLs are offered by a partnership of the Learning & Skills Council and some high street banks to cover vocational education or training for up to two years.


UCAS system for applicants to apply for places in July − September

Conditional offer

A course offer that requires achievement in outstanding exams or other conditions

CUKAS (Conservatoires UK Admissions Service)

The national application system for practice-based music courses at some seven conservatoires (and drama courses at two of them).

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First degree courses last three or four years full-time and usually lead to a bachelors degree (though there are exceptions, eg in Scotland or some undergraduate masters courses). Higher degrees, including most Masters degrees, PhD etc usually require a first degree as a prerequisite.

Department for Education

The government department concerned with education in schools for England.

Department for Employment & Learning (Northern Ireland)

Government department responsible for education in Northern Ireland


A higher education qualification awarded after two years full-time study at a university, and should give credit to the first two years of an Honours degree.


A qualification for 14−19 year olds, being introduced in England.

Disability Rights UK

An organisation providing support and information for disabled students.


Disabled Student Allowance, paid to UK students with various disabilities and assessed alongside their other grants and loans.

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Education & Library Board; local board in Northern Ireland to which students can apply for student support.


UCAS system to allow those without a place to apply for courses between January and summer Clearing.


European Computer Driving Licence


European Union

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FdA & FdSc

Foundation Degrees (arts and sciences)


Further Education

Fee Grant

A grant for students resident in Wales to cover part of their tuition fees.

Firm offer

UCAS term for the offer that an applicant has accepted as a first choice.

First degrees

What it says on the tin: the first degrees open to you when you leave school and enter higher education. Courses normally last three or four years full-time and usually result in a bachelors degree (though there are many exceptions).

Foundation degree

A higher education qualification, awarded after two years full-time study at a university or college; courses are designed in conjunction with employers to meet skills shortages. These should give credit to the first two years of an Honours degree, although you may need to take an extra term or summer school.


Full-time (of students and staff)


Full-time equivalent (eg FTE student)

Further Education

FE covers courses leading to qualifications also offered by schools, together with some vocational qualifications. However, the distinction between FE and HE (higher education) is muddied because some universities and HE colleges offer FE courses, and some FE colleges offer all or part of degree courses.

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General Certificate of Secondary Education, usually taken at school at age 16. Grade C in English and maths GCSE (or equivalent) is required for many first degree courses


General National Vocational Qualifications

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Higher Education

HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council in England)

The government funding body for universities in England. There are parallel bodies in Scotland (SHEFC) and Wales (HEFCW).


Higher National Certificate/Diploma


Scottish qualification taken in school; recognised by universities towards satisfying their entrance requirements.

Higher degrees

Include most Masters degrees, PhD etc; you usually need a first degree in order to undertake a higher degree

Higher Education

Refers to the education undertaken by students aged 18+, that is designed to build on qualifications largely taken at school. HE courses lead to a degree (or HND, FdA/FdSc or DipHE) and are offered by all universities and colleges of higher education; confusingly, some HE courses are also offered, in whole or in part, by some FE colleges.

Home students

Students ordinarily resident in the UK or EU; they pay the Home student rate of tuition fees and most will be entitled to a student loan to cover the fees.

Honours degree

First degrees that are classified into four classes of Honours (first, upper and lower second, third class honours)

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International Baccalaureate


Information & communications technology


International General Certificate of Secondary Education taken primarily by 14-16 year-olds. These are widely offered by schools overseas and, increasingly, by schools in the UK.

Independent student

UK governments assess loans and grants for independent students without reference to their parents’ income. Independent students are aged 25 or over, are married or have supported themselves for at least three years, or have no living parents.

Insurance offer

The offer an applicant has accepted as a second choice through UCAS

International Baccalaureate

Qualification taken in most international schools and an increasing number in the UK. It is recognised by universities as satisfying their entrance requirements (and by UCAS in the points tariff).

International students

Are students from outside the EU. They pay tuition fees that reflect the full cost of providing the tuition and are not usually entitled to any financial assistance from the UK government.


Independent Students’ Bursary, is a a non-returnable grant made to students in Scotland, aged 25 and above, from low-income households.


International Student Identity Card, which allows students to get discounts across the world.


Information Technology


Initial Teacher Training

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Junior Common Room , the undergraduate student community (and its common room); mostly used at colleges of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge

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Local Education Authority


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Society


Bachelor of Laws

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Maintenance grant

A non-returnable grant made to students from low-income families, resident in England and Northern Ireland (similar grants in Wales are called Assembly Learning Grants; in Scotland, SAAS Bursaries).

Masters degrees

Are usually higher degrees, taught or research based. However, some first degrees lead to Masters (many courses at Scottish universities; and throughout the UK some extended undergraduate science courses leading to eg MEng). On successful completion of a Masters degree, you can put designated initials after your name eg MA (Master of Arts), MBA (Master of Business Administration) or MEng (Master of Engineering).

MB BS (or MB BCh)

Bachelor of medicine & surgery


Middle Common Room, the graduate student community (and its common room); mostly used at colleges of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge

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National Council for Drama Training (NCDT)

An accreditation organisation for drama courses.

NUS (National Union of Students)

A confederation of 600 students’ unions in universities throughout the UK

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Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA)

Provides an independent system of complaint against universities in England and Wales


Office of Fair Access

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Oxford University’s course in politics, philosophy & economics


A post-16 qualification (developed by Cambridge University International Examinations), which prepares students for university studies.


Part-time (of students or staff)

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QAA (Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education)

Ensures that universities across the UK maintain standards in higher education qualifications


Qualified Teacher Status, qualifies you to teach in state schools in England and Wales

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Research quality

Research assessment exercises are undertaken every few years for all universities and colleges at the same time. Quality and quantity of research varies widely between universities and between departments. Some universities are research-led, others are not. The most recent Research Assessment Exercise was published in December 2008.

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Students’ Association (sometimes used as an alternative to Students’ Union)


Student Awards Agency for Scotland

SAAS bursary

Non-returnable grants made to students resident in Scotland from low-income families: YSB for young students who are studying in Scotland; ISB for students over 25; and SOSB for those studying outside Scotland.


Non-returnable money, traditionally awarded by universities to students of talent; often now bursaries by another name.


A term used by many universities to mean something like a department or faculty (confusing if you are still at school).


Senior Common Room; the community of teaching staff and fellows (and its common room).


EU education action programme with various programmes within it, eg Erasmus and Lingua. All UK universities have some involvement in the student mobility programme and all subjects are covered. To spend time in the EU on one of these programmes, your institution must be a participant; and if your course is approved, you may get help with the extra costs involved


Student Loans Company


Students Outside Scotland Bursary, is a non-returnable grant made to students from low-income families, who are resident in Scotland but studying outside Scotland


Students’ Representative Council (sometimes used as an alternative to Students’ Union)

Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS)

Administers loans and grants to students resident in Scotland.

Student loan

Two separate government-funded loans for home students: one to cover tuition fees (paid direct to the university); one for maintenance. Student loans are repaid once you are earning.

Student Loans Company (SLC)

Administers government-funded student loans and grants across the UK


Students’ Union. the local students’ representative organisation in a university or college. The SU will provide eg representation on university committees, welfare and entertainment services.

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Teaching Quality

The quality of higher education teaching is assessed as part of a rolling programme, subject by subject. The published results evaluate the quality of the learning experience in the overall teaching of that subject, and there are hundreds of subject reports on individual universities and colleges. Some of them were written long ago, so things will probably have changed a good deal; others are much more recent. Reports are available on the QAA website.

Tuition fees

Are the fees students are charged by universities to cover the tuition. Home students usually pay up to a maximum (currently £9000 pa), with a variety of help in the form of loans and sometimes grants. International students pay the full cost of providing the tuition.

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UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service)

The UK application system for most first degree courses

UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA)

Provides an advisory service for international students.


University of London Union.

Unconditional offer

Is an offer of a place to an applicant which requires no further examination passes.


Usually refers to a student on a first degree course; some universities use the term to describe all students who are not graduates (ie including those on non-degree courses)

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Young Students Bursary (YSB)

Is a non-returnable grant made to students from low-income families, who are both resident in, and studying in Scotland.

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