Applying to university

Higher education jargon buster

As you start to research higher education it’s likely that you’ll come across a few words or phrases that you haven’t heard before. We’ve listed some of the most common here.


Academic year

The academic year usually begins in September and ends in May. It may be slightly different for different institutions. Most universities split the academic year into semesters so that your study is spread out evenly.

Applicant days

Universities often hold events called applicant days for students who have applied to study a course at their institution. At an applicant day you’ll usually have the chance to meet academic tutors, students and fellow applicants, ask questions about the course you’ve applied for and visit the university’s facilities.



This is used in the title of many university degree courses. It stands for Bachelor of Arts.


This is used in the title of many university degree courses. It stands for Bachelor of Engineering.


This is used in the title of many university degree courses. It stands for Bachelor of Science.


This is a grant of money, given to you when you’re a student to help you afford the costs of studying. You can find out about some of the bursaries available to Teesside University students here.



The buildings and surroundings of a university or college.


If you don’t get a place on your chosen university course you can apply for other courses through the UCAS Clearing system. You can also enter Clearing if you decide to apply to university late. In Clearing, you can apply for any course that has places left – even changing your choice of subject. Course vacancies are advertised from the middle of August until late September. Not all courses will be available in Clearing, particularly those in high demand.


These are awarded for each university module you successfully complete. Each course contains a particular number of credits and you must complete them all to complete the course. The number of credits a course has varies depending on the level of the qualification. For example, a full-time honours degree has 120 credits in each of the three years – overall you are required to complete 360 credits to complete the degree.


Degree classification

This is the grade you get for your degree overall. When all of your university assessment results have been totalled your degree will be classified to reflect your achievement.

Classification Marks
First class 70+
2:1 (upper second class) 60-69
2:2 (lower second class) 50-59
Third 40-49


This is an extended essay or report usually of several thousand words on a specific subject completed during a course of study, normally in the final year.


Foundation degree (FdA and FdSc)

A flexible, work-related degree, taken over two years, designed in conjunction with employers to equip you with high-level industry skills. You can do a Foundation Degree Arts (FdA), a Foundation Degree Sciences (FdSc) or a Foundation Degree Engineering (FdEng) – not all universities will necessarily offer all three. If you complete a foundation degree you may be able to join the final year of an honours degree.


Students who have just started university are informally referred to as freshers. There are often activities planned for freshers at the beginning of the university year to help you meet new friends and get used to your new surroundings. At Teesside University this is called Welcome Week.



You become a graduate when you’ve successfully completed a higher education qualification.


Halls of residence

This is the name given to university accommodation. Students living away from home often stay in university accommodation during their first year of university. You can find out more about Teesside University’s student accommodation here.

Honours (Hons) degree

This is a course of higher education study undertaken at university, normally lasting three or four years full time.

HND, HNC and DipHE

These acronyms stand for: higher national diploma; higher national certificate; and diploma of higher education. These qualifications are normally studied over two years and may be converted into a degree by taking one or two years' extra study.


Integrated master’s degree

Integrated master's degrees include undergraduate and postgraduate study. These degrees are extended programmes of study which emphasise industrial relevance. They usually last four years full time and include three years of undergraduate level study (minimum 360 credits) and at least one year of study (minimum 120 credits) at master's level. Teesside University has a number of integrated master’s degrees.


Joint honours degree

This type of degree allows you to study two subjects as part of the same course, for example English and history. The subjects will be studied equally, 50/50.


Key transferable skills

These are the generic skills that are important in aspects of life, and include numeracy, IT, communication, teamwork, problem solving and self-management. Key skills help you to manage your time and find the balance between study, work and social life. Having key transferable skills helps you achieve better results and prepares you for the world of work.



This is a formal, instructive talk, given by a subject specialist, to a group of students. At university you’ll attend lectures as part of your teaching. You’ll listen and make notes – you’ll also have the chance to interact with your lecturer and ask questions.

LLB (Hons)

This is used in the title of many courses and stands for Bachelor of Laws.


Major-minor honours

This type of degree allows you to study two subjects, focusing mainly on one (the major subject), and studying a second subject in less detail (the minor subject). This type of degree allows you to combine your study interests.


An MComp is a four year integrated master’s course in computing. It combines study at bachelor’s level (BSc) with study at master’s level (MComp).


An MEng is a four year integrated master’s course in engineering. It combines study at bachelor’s level (BEng) with study at master’s level (MEng). MEng courses incorporate technical subjects to give you a deeper level of knowledge and enhance your management and leadership skills.


A module is a unit of study that explores a specific area within a subject. A number of modules make up an award, such as a degree.


Postgraduate student

A postgraduate student is someone who is studying for a higher qualification after completing an undergraduate degree. This might be a master’s degree, postgraduate certificate or diploma qualification.

Professional accreditation

If a course has professional accreditation it means it has been approved to professional standards by professional bodies. Professionally accredited courses are structured with professional criteria and prepare you for work in a particular field.


A printed publication produced by every university to provide information about its courses, facilities and campus. You might be given a prospectus at an open day or event and you can usually ask a university to send one to you at home by completing a short web form. You can request a Teesside University prospectus here.


Sandwich course/placement year

A sandwich course or placement year gives you the opportunity to undertake a year of work experience as part of a university degree. Work experience placements are undertaken in an industry related to your course and could be located in the UK or abroad. Sandwich courses or placement years give you the advantage of graduating with relevant work experience.

Seminar and tutorial

These are study sessions which take place in a classroom setting. Seminars and tutorials usually involve small group discussions led by an academic. As part of your studies you need to prepare for these sessions in advance, applying the knowledge you’ve gained through your reading and lectures.


Similar to a bursary, this is a grant of money, given to you when you’re a student to help you afford the costs of studying. Some scholarships are available to all students, and some for specific student groups or courses. You can find out about some of the scholarships available to Teesside University students here.

Student Loans Company

This is a government-owned organisation which provides loans and grants to students in universities and colleges in the UK. You might choose to apply for a student loan to help you pay for the cost of university study.

Students’ Union

An organisation led by students for students, the Students’ Union often plays an important role in your higher education experience. From support and representation to job shops, clubs, societies, great nights out and affordable places to eat and drink, the Students' Union is great resource for you during your time at university.


Tuition fee

A tuition fee is what you pay to study a course at university. It does not always have to be paid in advance of the course. You might choose to apply for a student loan to cover the cost of your tuition fees.



UCAS is the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service – the central organisation that processes applications for full-time undergraduate courses at UK universities and colleges.

UCAS tariff points

To enter a higher education course you may be asked to achieve a particular number of UCAS tariff points. You gain tariff points through different grades, qualifications and achievements – if you add together all of your points you get an overall tariff points score. Higher education institutions may ask for tariff points rather than asking for specific grades – 120 tariff points rather than three Bs at A Level for example.

Undergraduate student

An undergraduate student is someone who is studying for a higher education qualification such as a BA or BSc honours degree, HND or foundation degree.