Rough Guide to Terms and References used in Higher Education

Academic Year

The university year, normally runs from September to July of each year.

Access Course

A course for mature students (over 21) who lack the appropriate formal qualifications to enter Higher Education (HE).   Successful completion will enable them to commence a course in Higher Education.

Access Funds

This is money, which is given to universities to assist students in financial difficulty.   There is a special application procedure, which assesses whether students are eligible, and if so how much they should be awarded.


A graduate, or someone who has successfully passed a course at university.


APEL or Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning can be used as an alternative to formal qualifications to assess a student's suitability to enter Higher Education.


The title Bachelor or Arts e.g. BA (Hons) Sociology, is awarded to students who have successfully graduated (passed) their degree course in an Arts subject. They operate at levels 4-6 of the FHEQ.


Bachelor of Science e.g. BSc (Hons) Chemistry is awarded to students who have successfully graduated (passed) their degree course in a science subject. They operate at Levels 4-6 of the FHEQ


Bachelor of Education (Teaching degree) is awarded to students who have successfully graduated (passed) their degree course in teaching. (see also PGCE)

Bologna Declaration / Process

In 1999, Education ministers from around 30 countries undertook to establish a European area of HE by 2010.   This aims to ensure that qualifications and skills across the European area are equivalent and transferable. The QAA has been responsible for ensuring that UK Higher education awards fit into the Bologna process. ( See )

Combined Honours

A degree in which a students studies a combination of two or three different subjects.


A system run by clearing houses, such as UCAS or MNAS that operates after A Level and other pre-university qualification results are known, which allows prospective students without a university place to apply a second time for vacant places, which haven't been filled by first round applications.


The Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) determines how and when students are deemed to have reached a certain level.   For example, when they have reached the standard required by a certain qualification.  The scheme is recognised within and between institutions.   This allows students to transfer more easily between institutions and take their qualifications / levels reached with them.


A qualification awarded for a course of Higher Education, usually taking the equivalent of two years of full-time study and worth 240 credits upon completion.


An extended essay or report usually of several thousand words on a specific subject area completed during a course of study, often at the end.

Distance Learning

This is where students study from home, but are provided with specially prepared learning materials often in the form of TV and radio programmes, materials by correspondence, video, computer network, or CD roms.   The institution they are registered with is also responsible for marking and commenting on their work, and provided counselling and tutorial support.


Electronic learning – learning that takes place using information technology as a resource. This can take many forms: providing information, problem based learning and/or the development of virtual tutorials and discussion groups. DMU uses the term “enhanced learning through technology” to emphasize the importance placed upon learning.


EDEXCEL an awarding body of pre-university qualifications.


Faculty Academic Committee. The senior academic committee within a faculty. It is concerned with the assurance of quality, the development and delivery of the curriculum and other teaching and learning issues. It reports to University Academic Board.


A group of several relating departments usually within an academic area, that are jointly administered.   For example, the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at DMU administers areas including the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Health Studies, the School of Pharmacy, Youth and Community  among others.


Further Education provides education and courses in a wide range of subjects and levels for those over 16.   Courses provided include but are not limited to A Levels, AS Levels, Vocational A Levels, national diplomas and key skills.   They can be taken in their own right, or by students who intend to use them to satisfy entry requirements to Higher Education.


Students now have to make a means tested contribution towards the cost of their studies.  This can be repaid at a later date if a student takes out a student loan. The level set varies each year, and individual universities will be able to advise on the level they charge for their provision.


The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications. A national framework which all HEIs conform to when awarding their degrees etc. The FHEQ is administered by the QAA and is the first part of their UK Quality Code for Higher Education (see

Foundation course

This is a recognised FE course designed to prepare student who have qualifications, which are acceptable for entry in general, but are not appropriate to a specific course of study.   Foundation courses are also used as a means of eventually gaining admission onto a degree course which enable student with non-traditional qualifications to participate in HE by using Year 0 as a preparatory year for a full degree programme.

Foundation degree

A two year work related higher education programme designed to appeal to diverse students. A further 15 months of study can lead to the award of an honours degree.

FTE (Full-time equivalent)

For comparison and funding purposes, numbers of part-time students and staff are converted to their FTE

Full economic cost (FEC)

Activities such as consultancy and research must include all direct and indirect costs so that it is not being subsidized by money received for teaching.


A person who has completed and passed his or her degree and has the right to call themselves, for example, A. Brown BA.

Halls of Residence

Accommodation in which students often live while studying. These are often University owned but may also be provided by private companies.


Higher Education provides education and training for students of 18 years of age and older, who have completed the required amount of study at school, or in the FE sector.   A wide range of qualifications are on offer, including HNC, HNDs, and degrees.


Higher Education Academy


Higher Education Funding Council


Higher Education Institute

Higher degree

This is a degree above bachelor's level, such as a master's degree or doctorate.


Higher National Certificate.   This qualification can be gained with fewer units then the HND.


Higher National Diplomas normally last for two years and are usually in vocational subjects, such as Business and Finance.   At the end of the course you can often add a top up year, to gain a degree.

Honours Degree

A course of Higher Education study undertaken at university, normally lasting three or four years.

Joint Honours

An honours degree where two subjects are studies in the same depth.

Key Skills

Key skills are the generic skills, which are important in all aspects of life, and include communication, IT, numeracy, team work, problem solving, and self-management.   They help you to: manage your time and find the right balance between study, work and a social life; achieve better results; prepare for the world of work.


Local Authority. The name for the tier of local government which includes both Education and Children’s Services.


A formal instructive talk given by a subject specialist to a group of students.  Students listen and make notes, although some involve interaction between the lecturer and students.


MA/MSc degrees are awarded to graduates who have undertaken a further course of study after an honours degree.   They operate at level 7 of the FHEQ. Masters degrees may be taken following a period of work experience, and some courses take the form of company training programmes.   MPhil degrees are masters degrees, which a student is awarded after a period of research rather than by following a taught masters course.

Major/Minor Honours

A degree where a students studies two subjects, but concentrates on one, which is their major subject, and also studies a second subject in less detail, and this is known as their minor subject.

Mature Student

Students who are over 21 when they start their course.


Master in Business Administration


Managed Learning Environment


A unit of study that explores a specific area within a subject, for example, “the Cold War”.   A number of modules make up an award, such as a degree.


A colleague elected to support a new member of staff over a specified period.


The UK central organization ( which accepts and processes applications to Nursing and Midwifery diploma courses.) which accepts and processes applications to Nursing and Midwifery diploma courses.


The Office for Fair Access. This promotes and safeguards fair access to HE for under-represented groups in the light of variable tuition fees from 2006/07

Open/Flexible Learning

Open or flexible learning allows students to study at their own pace.   They may use learning centres where they have full access to materials and resources.   These centres also provide them with counselling, and tutorial support as require.

Personal Tutor

A member of university staff, who discusses progress and problems with individual students.


Postgraduate Certificate in Education. A way of gaining Qualified teacher Status (QTS) following successful completion of an undergraduate degree. Usually the equivalent of one year’s full time study and involving considerable amounts of time spent on school placement.

Placement Year

A year, which is part of a university course, but where the student gains experience in the workplace.   A placement year is usually the penultimate year of any course. (see “sandwich year”)


Using or copying another person's work without acknowledgement with the intention of passing it off as their own.   This is cheating and is not allowed at university.


Programme Management Board - A board which meets twice a year to consider and manage curriculum and assessment issues within the subject area, 


A student, who has completed his/her undergraduate degree and progresses onto more advanced studies at university.


A booklet giving details of a university/college and its courses, entry requirements, and campuses.


The Research Excellence Framework. This replaced the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) is carried out periodically to determine the quality of research in UK HEIs. Primarily about reputation, it also provides an extra source of funding for those institutions with the highest quality research.

Russell Group universities

An association of 19 research-intensive UK universities formed in 1994 at a meeting convened in the Hotel Russell, London


a meeting between a lecturer and a small group of students to study or discuss an aspect of the course, which is being taught.

Sandwich year

A course of study which includes a year of practical work undertaken in an organisation outside the university, but which has some relevance to the student's programme of study.   The sandwich year is usually the penultimate year of a degree programme.

Single Honours

An honours degree course during which a students studies a single subject area.

Student Loans Company

The Student Loans Company (SLC) provides financial assistance in the form of loans to students.   These loans are not paid back until after the course has ended, and students have started earning.

Teacher Fellow/National Teacher Fellow

A three year award presented by a university for excellent teaching evidenced and validated by the production of a portfolio and interview. The National Teacher Fellowship (NTF) awards are organized and awarded by the HEA

Tuition Fees

Course fees, which are payable to the university to cover tuition costs.


When the tutor meets with one student or a small group of about 5/10 students to discuss aspects of the course.


The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, which is responsible for processing application for courses at universities and colleges.


A person, who is studying for a first degree.


An institute of Higher Education, which has the authority to award bachelors and higher degrees, and usually has research facilities.

UOA (Unit of Assessment)

The units used as subject categories for the REF.


The process by which a course is judged to have met the requirements for an award by the relevant degree-awarding or examining body – by an accredited institution on their behalf.


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