Jargon Buster

You might sometimes hear unfamiliar terms when people talk to you about Higher Education. To help you out, we have explained some of the more common terms and acronyms. 

A Levels: The academic qualification gained from studying at a sixth form or college after completing GCSEs.

Access Courses: These are courses designed to help adults re-engage with learning and education. The courses are usually one year long and help students access higher education.

Adjustment: A service available on results day to those students who have gained higher results than expected and therefore would like to change the institution or course they will be studying. 

Apprenticeships: Apprenticeships are training programmes for those who would like to work as well as learn.

AS Levels: A standalone post 16 qualification that takes one year to complete.

BA: Bachelor of Arts, the undergraduate degree awarded to those studying an arts or humanities degree. 

BMAT: The Biomedical Admissions Test. Another form of medical admissions test required by certain universities.  

BSc: Bachelor of Science, the undergraduate degree awarded to those studying a scientific discipline. 

BTEC: Business and Technology Education Council. Vocational qualifications that equip students with theoretical and practical knowledge in a range of subjects. There are three main levels: BTEC firsts that are equivalent to GCSE level, BTEC national diplomas that are equivalent to A-level, and BTEC apprenticeships. 

Bursary: A non-repayable monetary award made to students who satisfy certain criteria as set by the awarding universities and colleges. 

Care Leavers' Grants: Financial support for students leaving the care system. 

Clearing: A service that opens on results day each year whereby those students without a place at a higher education institution can gain a place on courses with spaces still available. 

Combined Honours: A degree encompassing more than one subject. 

Conditional Offer: An offer of acceptance providing you achieve the grades you have submitted in your UCAS application. 

Distance Learning: Distance Learning courses are now available as a way of learning without physically being present at a school/college/university.

DSA: Disabled Student Allowances are monetary awards made to those students who may need additional support through their studies as a result of a disability or long-term health condition. For example these awards may pay for specialist equipment, printing costs, a note-taker etc. These awards are assessed on a case by case basis. 

Entry Requirements: The minimum grade/level/result of performance and/or qualification needed to be accepted onto a course. 

FE: Further Education. Refers to the qualifications taken post 16, i.e. after a student has taken their GCSEs. 

Firm Choice: A student's first choice of higher education, this is the institution and course they will attend providing they meet the conditions of their offer. 

Foundation Degree: This is a Higher Education qualification which combines academic and work-based learning. They are designed to prepare you for a particular area of work, but they can also lead to Honours Degrees. 

Fresher: The informal term given to first year students at university.

Gap Year: Students may opt to take a year out of their studies before beginning a higher education course, this year can be used to work, travel, volunteer or a mixture of the three!

GCSE: General Certificate of Secondary Education. The qualifications are taken at the end of a student's secondary education, in year 11.  

Graduate: Someone who has been awarded a degree from a Higher Education provider. 

Halls: The term given to the university accommodation students can opt to live in during their first year of study at university, should the student chose to move out. 

HE: Higher Education. Refers to the qualifications that are taken at level 4 or above, i.e. those that are taken after A-Levels or equivalents. 

HNC: Higher National Certificate. Usually studied part-time over two years, where you then progress to the second year of an Honours Degree or top-up to an HND. 

HND: Higher National Diploma. These courses are more vocationally orientated, usually full time and studied over two years. 

Hons: Honours - indicates a level of attainment attached to a BSc or BA

Insurance Choice: A student's second choice of higher education, usually with slightly lower entry requirements. This is the institution and course a student will attend should they not meet the terms of their Firm choice. 

Joint Honours: A degree where you focus on two different areas of study, for example English and History, or Politics and Media. 

Key Stage 3: Key stage 3 (or KS3) refers to school years 7-9. 

Key Stage 4: Key stage 4 (or KS4) refers to school years 10-11. 

Key Stage 5: Key stage 5 (or KS5) refers to school years 12-13.

Lecture: A style of teaching whereby staff deliver content in a theatre style room with students taking notes. 

Levels: The degree of difficulty of the qualification. Level 1 is Entry Level, Level 2 is GCSE and Level 3 is A Level study. 

Module: A period of study covering a particular topic. Many programmes are divided into modules with a certain number of modules required to study the course to completion.

Sandwich Degree: A gap between the years of study to undertake a placement year in industry or to study abroad. 

Scholarship: These are non-repayable grants which are given to students. They are often based on academic merit rather than financial need. 

Semester: A block of study containing certain modules (at universities the year is usually split into two semesters). 

Seminar: Smaller, more interactive, group teaching. Usually centred on group discussion with some work to prepare prior to the session. 

SFE: Student Finance England are the body who manage applications for maintenance and tuition fee loans across England. 

Student Loans: Low-interest loans to help students afford their living and study costs whilst in Higher Education. These loans are borrowed and re-paid to the government. 

Term: The periods of teaching time throughout the academic year. 

Top-Up Degrees: Students who have completed a HND or Foundation Degree who wish to complete a full Honours Degree can "top up" their qualification at university. 

Tuition Fees: An annual fee to be paid each year of your course. Each Higher Education provider has its own fee. If you cannot afford the tuition fee, there are different ways you can support yourself such as Student Finance or through bursaries and scholarships.

UCAS Extra: An additional period of time to apply for courses through UCAS when someone has not applied during the main UCAS application period or has received no offers of a place. 

UCAS Track: The online service allowing applicants to track the status of their higher education applications.

UCAS: University and College Admissions Service. The central organisation who handle applications for higher education across the UK. 

UKCAT: The UK Clinical Aptitude Test. An admissions test required by some medical and dental schools across the UK.

Undergraduate: A student undertaking a degree level course at either college or university. When they have successfully completed their course, they will be known as a graduate.

Vocational: Career specific courses that relate to a certain area of work i.e. Veterinary, Nursing, Engineering, Teaching etc.


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