There is a lot of jargon in higher education so we have put together some of the key words and expressions in our jargon buster. Also have a look at the ‘Pathways into HE’ section for more information on qualifications and how they can lead into university level study.



An academic degree recognises the completion of higher education studies at university or college.
There are different types of degrees:

  • Undergraduate or Bachelor degree: A degree awarded by a college or university to a person who has completed undergraduate, or first, studies. Usually lasts 3-4 years.
    There are different titles depending on the subject studied. Once graduated, your son/daughter can use this title in their personal details.
  • BA: This is used in the title of many arts, humanities and some social science courses and stands for Bachelor of Arts.
  • BEng: This stands for Bachelor of Engineering.
  • BSc: This stands for Bachelor of Science and is used with science and some social science degrees.
  • LLB: Bachelor of Laws. This is for Law degrees. It allows for progression onto further training to become a barrister or solicitor.
  • Foundation degree: A work-related qualification designed together with employers. Normally lasts two years full-time. Your son/daughter can progress from a Foundation degree to an Honours degree at university or college in the same subject.
  • Masters: A higher level taught degree typically taken after completing an undergraduate degree.
  • PhD: Also known as a doctorate, this is the highest form of degree awarded and involves you carrying out research with little or no teaching. You need to have completed at least an undergraduate degree to study at this level.
  • Sandwich degree: This includes a yearlong work placement in industry.
Higher Apprenticeships/Degree Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships offer a work-based learning programme in combination with university or college study.

These higher level apprenticeships lead to a nationally recognised degree qualification up to Bachelor degree level.

HND, HNC and DipHE

These are higher national diploma, higher national certificate and diploma of higher education qualifications that are normally studied over two years and may be converted into a degree by taking one or two years’ extra study.

Student Life

Higher Education (HE)

The level of education that involves undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.


A method of teaching at university. Large classes in a room with tiered seating and a lecturer talking at the front while students take notes.


This is a discussion-based classroom exercise that takes place in small groups. Students will need to prepare for these and apply what they have learned in a lecture


This is someone with a higher education qualification.


Graduation is a formal ceremony that your son or daughter is invited to attend to mark the completion of their studies. Most students wear formal clothes along with a cap and gown. During the graduation ceremony, each student will be called forward to receive their degree or diploma certificate from a university dignitary such as the Chancellor or Vice-Chancellor.

Graduation is a very special occasion that not only marks all of the hard work and commitment your child has shown in completing their studies but also recognises the support you have given as a parent/carer.

Student Services

Staff in this department at university or college offer students a range of support and advice before, during and after their course. This includes help in finding accommodation, advice on student finance, and support for students with disabilities and care leavers.

Students’ Union

The Students’ Union plays a central role in every student’s higher education experience. From support and representation to the forging of new friendships and great nights out, the Students’ Union is an invaluable resource for every student.


This refers to the buildings and surroundings of a university or college.


Student accommodation which is either owned by the university or by a private provider. They have communal living and kitchen areas in which students socialise and cook their own meals.


Students who have just started at university are often called ‘freshers’.

Universities will most likely organise a Fresher’s Week or welcome week to introduce them to university life. This will include lots of social events to help them meet new friends but will also acclimatise them to their new campus and facilities.



These are guides produced by individual universities. They give information about that university, its facilities and the courses it offers. This information is also available online on university websites.

Open days

Days when the university is open to students who are considering applying. They often include activities such as campus tours, subject talks, accommodation tours and finance talks.


Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. This is the organisation that handles nearly all university applications. The application process (including choices and personal statements) is all done online via www.ucas.com.

Most courses ask for a certain number of UCAS tariff points for entry. Using the UCAS tariff allows your son/daughter to see if their achievements meet the qualification requirements for a particular course.

Personal statement

The personal statement is a substantial and important part of the application. It is the section of the UCAS application form where your child can tell universities and colleges about their suitability for the course(s) they hope to study. It may distinguish your child from other applicants. The personal statement is read thoroughly by the Admissions tutors when they look at your child ’s application.


Clearing is how universities and colleges fill places they still have left on their courses between July and September each year. If your child did not get a place at the university of their choice when they applied, they may get a place through clearing. Universities and colleges update the free places on their courses regularly.


UCAS Extra enables your child to have an additional choice through UCAS. It operates from late February to June for universities with vacancies.

Gap year

A year away from education that some students take before going to university. Often students will use their gap year to travel or to gain work experience and additional qualifications.


Tuition fee

A tuition fee is the charge universities make for studying with them. Tuition fees cover the cost of study and may vary depending on what and where your son/daughter studies.

Tuition fee loan

This is a loan given by the government. Your son/daughter will need to apply to Student Finance England for a tuition fee loan. Repayment is in monthly instalments and only starts once a student has graduated and is in employment earning at least £21,000.

Maintenance loan

From 1 August 2016 this replaces the maintenance grant. The maintenance loan helps with living costs and is paid in three instalments throughout the academic year. As for Tuition Fee Loans, repayment starts only when an income of £21,000 is reached. The monthly repayment depends on income level not on amount borrowed.

Student Finance England (SFE)

This is the funding body that assesses your son/daughter for financial support.


This is extra financial help provided by a university or college for students from households on lower incomes. It does not have to be paid back. Some universities and colleges offer special bursaries for students who have been in care and for those who have a disability.


A financial award made on the basis of a range of criteria such as household income, excellent academic, sporting or musical achievement. They are specific to each institution.

Go to the Resources page for more useful websites to look at and check the information provided by Our HE Partners.