Main content starts


Educational terms explained

Access course - One-year full-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.

A-level/AS-level - The British advanced-level examination allowing entry to university.

APEL is credit given to students for experiential learning completed in the past, for example things you have learned to do in your job.

APL is credit for courses you have taken in the past.

Apprenticeships allow participants to gain qualifications and earn money at the same time.

AVCE - Advanced Vocational Certification in Education.

Bursary - A non-repayable financial award for eligible students available from some  universities

BA BSc (Bachelor’s degree) Also known as a first degree or undergraduate degree. Can be a Bachelor of Arts (BA, generally associated with humanities, arts, language and social science subjects), a Bachelor of Science (BSc, for courses in science, technology and some business and social science subjects, a Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) or a Bachelor of Law (LLB).

CATS - Credit Accumulation Transfer Scheme – all courses, or modules, are worth a number of CATS points once they are completed. CATS points are transferrable between courses and institutions.

CLAIT is a recognised qualification in ICT.

CRB – most health,social care and education courses will require students to have CRB clearance.
Continuous Professional Development.

CPD-Continuous professional development is an ongoing process, important for keeping yourself up to date, informed and qualified to do your job.

Degree -a higher education qualification awarded by university.  (See also BA/BSc above.)

Distance learning allows students to undertake courses without attending an institution in person.

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.

14 – 19 Diploma - Diplomas are new qualifications for 14-19-year-olds, combining theoretical and practical learning. Diplomas will be available at three levels and across 17 Lines of Learning, from humanities to engineering. They are designed to encourage more young people to gain the qualifications they need to progress into further and higher education or employment.  They are being rolled out nationwide between 2008 and 2011.

Dip HE (Diploma in Higher Education) – qualification approximately equal to two years of a three year degree and often available in work related subject areas.

DCSF - Department for Children, Schools and Families.
ECDL - European Computer Driving Licence - is an internationally recognised computer use qualification.
stands for Equivalent or Lower Qualification. A student is deemed to be studying for an ELQ if the qualification aim of their course of study is at an equivalent or lower level than their highest qualification on entry. In this case there will be no HEFCE funding available for such a student. Those students that are funded by the TDA or NHS are therefore unaffected.

Entry requirements - Qualifications required for entry to a university or college course. The entry requirements may be varied for mature students.
ESL- English as a second language.

ESOL - English for speakers of other languages.

FE College - Further Education colleges offer a range of courses including A-levels, AVCEs, GCSEs, BTECs, HNCs, HNDs, foundation degrees, access and short courses.

Foundation degree - a university level vocational qualification that can be studied full-time or part-time and is the equivalent of two thirds of an undergraduate honours degree. 

Freshers are new university students. A freshers’ week may be organised as an introduction to university life. This can include social events, society fairs, and introductions to the library and computer resources.

Functional skills are the core elements of English, mathematics and ICT, which provide the essential knowledge, skills and understanding needed to operate confidently, effectively and independently in life and at work. Functional skills will relate to GCSEs in English, mathematics and ICT, Diplomas and apprenticeships. They will also be available as stand-alone qualifications.

GNVQ - General National Vocational Qualification

Gap year - Many young students take a year out between school or college and university, often to travel, study or work to gain experience and save money for university.

GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) - The British high/secondary school qualification necessary to undertake further education qualifications, for example, AS-levels/A levels, BTECs.

Graduate - Someone who has successfully completed their first degree.

Grant - Money awarded to a student or researcher to assist their studies usually non repayable.

GTTR (The Graduate Teacher Training Registry) is a UK national organisation that administers applications for entry onto Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) courses.

HE (Higher education) - Study at univerisity level but can be undertaken at an FE College, University, or through distance learning.

HEI (higher education institution) - a general term used to describe universities and university colleges.
HNC (Higher National Certificate)

HND (Higher National Diploma)
IAG (Information, advice and guidance) needed to make informed choices about local learning and work opportunities. Information is the data about how to access learning and work opportunities. Advice is the additional support given to understand the information. Guidance is in-depth help from a trained adviser.

ITT (Initial Teacher Training) is part of the teacher training programme which enables students to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). There are four types of ITT: undergraduate, postgraduate, school-centered initial teacher training (SCITT) and work-based.

IB/EB (International Baccalaureate) is a level 3 qualification equivalent to A levels.

IELTS is an international language testing system that includes an academic module designed to assess whether candidates are ready to study at undergraduate or postgraduate level.

Lecture - This is usually a formal presentation of ideas and information by a member of the academic staff to a fairly large number of students. Many lectures are accompanied with student handouts, although you're generally encouraged to make your own notes too. In recent times lectures have become less formal in many universities with lecturers encouraging active participation from students.

Mature student - A student over the age of 21.
Modular Courses - Most courses are divided into modules and students are required to pass a number of modules to complete a degree programme. To achieve a degree you will usually have to study a number of compulsory and optional modules. Some courses are called modular because they give you a really wide choice of different modules as you go through.

NARIC - The National Academic Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC), is the only way of getting recognition for qualifications from abroad

NUS - National Union of Students
NVQ - National Vocational Qualification.
OCA - Open College of the Arts
OCN - Open College Network
Open days - Some universities have subject-specific open days where students and their families can visit  to find out more about the course they are interested in and the university.

OU (Open University)

Personal statement is a piece of writing you will be asked to submit as part of your application for study at a university. It is your chance to explain exactly why you are making the choices you are and why you are suitable.

PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) - This qualification allows the holder to teach in primary or secondary in the UK. Taken as a one-year full-time programme after completing a Bachelor’s degree.

Placement - A period of work based learning.
Plagiarism - This is when someone uses someone else's writing or ideas and pretends that they are their own. Universities are very keen that students should not cheat in this way and so if you do any research then you should always reference your source of information.

Progression Agreement - Special admission arrangements set up for some of the university and college courses in the South East.  They do not exist for all courses. They can help progression to a higher education course by guaranteeing an interview, or in some cases, an offer of a place on the course.  See South East Routes.
Prospectus - The details of courses, activities and student life at a university or college. Potential students can ring any university to request a copy or access an online version.
QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) – Qualification necessary to teach in primary or secondary education in the UK obtained by taking a Bachelor’s degree in education or Bachelor’s degree in another subject followed by a PGCE.

Sandwich courses - These are usually courses which include an extra year of work experience (or language training) 'sandwiched' between two or three years of concentrated study. During the extra year the student usually goes on work experience with an employer, organisation or department in their subject field.

Semester/term - The university academic year is either divided into two semesters or three terms; this is dependent on the university.

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

SEEDA (South East England Development Agency) is responsible for the sustainable economic development and regeneration of the South East of England.

SouthEast routes - There are special agreements to help people living, working or studying in the South East to get started on certain higher education courses at universities and colleges locally. SouthEast routes is an online search tool that will help you find any special agreements that exist for the subject area you're interested in.

Teacher Training - Teacher Training and financial support for teacher training in England is coordinated by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA). Postgraduate Teacher Training applications are organised by the Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR).

Tuition fees - Tuition fees for full-time courses are set by the Government and paid to the university directly by the student or by the local authority if the student is eligible for fees support. Depending on your (or your family's) circumstances the entire fees may be paid for you by the Local Education Authority. The tuition fees for part-time courses will vary according to the length of the course and the university.

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

UCAS (University and College Admissions Service)
UKCOSA (United Kingdom Council for Overseas Students Affairs)

Vocational A-levels - Work related qualifications -  see AVCE and BTEC
Vocational qualification - Qualification aimed at preparing students for employment, usually with practical experience as part of the course.

Viva voce (often abbreviated to viva) - An examination in which the student has a spoken interview with an examiner, as opposed to a written examination. Some university courses, especially in languages, will test students' knowledge with a combination of written and viva voce examinations.

Work Based Learning - Any learning that takes place in the context of the workplace.  Employers and their staff decide what training is needed to improve skills for the job and whether to take up formal learning that leads to a qualification. 


No need to print yet! Click here to go to your personal planning pack and save paper

Can't find what you're looking for? Want to comment on our website? Email us

Ask a question