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by Susie Kilburn

UK Student Recruitment and Schools Liaison Officer at City, University of London

posted on 8 Dec '22

A higher education jargon buster

Note from UniTasterDays - for a full list of higher education jargon, check out the interactive University Jargon Buster.

Higher Education is full of jargon that may be unfamiliar. The list below covers some terminology that you may find useful when researching universities, or supporting others to do so.

University degree terms

An undergraduate course is the first level of a degree qualification. Once a student completes an undergraduate course, they become a graduate in that degree subject.

Postgraduate qualifications are for those who have completed a first (undergraduate) degree and are studying for further advanced qualifications such as a masters or doctorate.

Integrated Degree
An integrated degree combines two courses into one. This is usually a combination of an undergraduate and postgraduate degree (integrated masters degree), or a foundation course and undergraduate degree (integrated foundation degree).

Foundation Course
Foundation courses are preparatory courses that provide students with the knowledge and skills required to succeed on an undergraduate course. Foundation courses are often one year long and usually lead straight on to undergraduate degree study with the same university.

Placements are built into some courses to provide students with practical industry experience before they qualify. These can be compulsory for some courses (such as health care and other vocational degrees). They can also take the form of a ‘year in industry’ or as part of a module. Placement options will vary depending on the university and course.

Image of a group of students in an informal seminar

University teaching terms

Seminars are smaller discussion-led sessions where students talk about a weekly topic. They are usually facilitated by an academic tutor, but students are expected to come prepared with pre-reading as well as their own research and ideas to discuss during the session.

Lectures are when an academic delivers a talk to a large group of students on a particular topic. Students usually attend at least one lecture per module per week. Lectures are usually held in large lecture theatres and are an opportunity for students to take notes and ask questions to the lecturer about the topic.

Contact Hours
Contact hours refer to the number of hours a student has contact with teaching staff during the week. This could include seminars, lectures, workshops, lab work or office hours. Scheduled contact hours may vary significantly depending on the subject and structure of the course.

Although some students may have fewer scheduled contact hours than others, they are then expected to conduct independent reading and work for the rest of the week.

University courses break learning and teaching into modules. Modules usually cover a particular topic within the course subject. Some modules may be compulsory, others may be optional and up to the students to choose. Some courses will also allow students to take a module in a different subject – sometimes called an ‘elective module’.

In order to achieve a degree qualification, students are required to achieve a certain number of credits. Credits are earned on completion of modules. Modules will vary in how many credits can be earned. Students must then pass a certain number of modules to graduate.

Prefer to Listen?

Check out Episode 3 of The Uni Guide Podcast. A university jargon special!

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