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UK education: Glossary

This article is a glossary of terms related to UK education and educational institutions.
© British Council



Academic integrity

Academic integrity refers to the moral and ethical standards expected of those in the academic community. These standards relate to the need for accuracy, fairness and respect for the work of others. Issues such as collusion, cheating and plagiarism are examples of when students fail to meet these standards.


This is the part of the university that receives applications and makes offers to students. They confirm when any conditions that accompany the offer have been achieved, and give you information on joining the university.



An area where several university buildings are grouped together. Many universities have 2 or 3 campuses in different parts of the town or city. Some UK universities have campuses in other countries. Some university accommodation is “on campus” and some is “off campus”.


A citation is a reference to another source (author surname and year of publication) found in academic texts. See the entry for “references” below.

Conditional offer

If you receive a conditional offer of a place on a course, it means there are one or more conditions that you need to meet. These may be related to the grades you need to achieve at high school or on your first degree, or to your level of English, or to finances.



A degree is a university qualification awarded on successful completion of a period of study. The first degree after high school is a bachelor’s degree (e.g. BA, BSc, BEd.) Postgraduate degrees include master’s (e.g. MA, MSc, MEd) and doctorate (PhD) degrees.



A Fresher is a student in their first year of a bachelor’s degree.


Hall of residence

In many universities, the accommodation provided by the university are called “halls” or “halls of residence”. These may be catered (some meals are provided) or self-catered (students have to cook for themselves in shared kitchens).



In a lecture, academic staff explain, describe or analyse some aspect of course content. Students listen and are expected to take notes. Lectures normally last 40 – 50 minutes, although some may be longer.



In most universities, degree programmes are divided into modules, which are different subjects. For example, if you do an undergraduate degree in Business Studies, you might have modules in Management, Finance, Accounting and Marketing. Some modules are obligatory (you have to do them), and some are optional (you can choose them from a list). Each module might last 1 or 2 terms.


National Union of Students (NUS)

The National Union of Students is an organisation that represents the interests of students across the UK. In most cases, you’ll automatically become a member when you complete registration at your university. In addition, your university will also have a Student Union, which provides a range of services for students.



Plagiarism involves presenting the work of other people in such a way that it looks like your own work, and there are severe penalties for those found to be plagiarising. Some plagiarism is deliberate, but a lot occurs through ignorance of what is and what isn’t permissible. It’s your responsibility to understand plagiarism and ways to include references to other people’s work correctly. Your university will provide a lot of guidance on this important issue.


Postgraduate students are those studying at higher levels than a bachelor’s degree, so they include master’s and Doctorate students.



This word has several meanings, but in the context of academic writing, references provide information about the sources you use. There are references in the text (usually author surname(s) and year of publication) and more detailed information in a list of references at the end of the text.



Seminars vary in format, but the essential idea is that students are expected to participate actively. So a seminar might include some or all of the following: short presentations; some discussion among the whole group; the whole group dividing into smaller groups for discussions. In some cases, the word “workshop” might mean something similar to a seminar.

Students’ Union

Each university will have a Students’ Union which is a member of the National Union of Students. It’s run by students, looks after the interests of students in the university, representing their viewpoints in decision-making and on committees across the institution, and also provides facilities such as shops, cafes, bars, travel and insurance services. In some universities, the Student Union is referred to as ‘Student Association’ or ‘Student Guild’.

Study Advice

Most universities have a Study Advice team, which provides support and advice on many of the academic and study skills discussed in this course, eg time management, giving presentations, referencing. This support may include printed guides, videos and sessions with advisors. In your institution, it may be called Study Support, Learning Support, or have some similar name.



In many universities, the academic year is divided into 3 terms, and each term may be 8 – 12 weeks long. Some universities have 2 semesters.

Transferable skills

These are skills, such as teamwork or time management skills, which can be transferred to many different situations, particularly in employment.


“Tutor” usually refers to a person who teaches you. There are other words which describe the status of academic staff in a university, eg fellow, lecturer, senior lecturer, professor. In addition, in many universities, you’ll have a Personal or Academic Tutor, who follows your overall progress and gives individualised advice.


In some cases tutorials are one-to-one or small group meetings with a tutor about a specific assignment; in other cases, tutorials provide an opportunity to review a student’s progress on the programme.


Unconditional offer

If you’ve met all the conditions related to your offer, your offer becomes unconditional, which means that you’ve been fully accepted onto your programme.


An undergraduate is a student who is studying for a first degree, a bachelor’s degree


Most students study for a degree programme at a university. However, some specialised colleges (eg Royal College of Music, London; Sparsholt College) offer degree programmes, and so do further education colleges. The word university usually refers to the institution in which you study.


Vice-chancellor, Principal

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the chief executive officer in a university is usually called the Vice-chancellor. In Scotland, this person is called the Principal and Vice-Chancellor


Work placement

Some degree programmes include a work placement, which means that you work under supervision in an enterprise outside the university. These are sometimes called “internships”. Your institution will be able to advise you on what work placement options are available to you.

© British Council
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