March 22, 2019

University terminology: The low-down

Starting university is always an exciting, yet nail-biting new chapter to embark upon. But for those who haven’t had much experience with academia, both the application to university and transition into further education can be made all the more rocky – all thanks to the particular language that’s used by university departments.


While GSM London doesn’t prescribe to the sorts of haughty terms you might find at some universities, that’s not to say there aren’t a few pieces of terminology that could prove useful when you start your studies.



UCAS terminology

When applying to a course, chances are that you’ll apply through UCAS, meaning you’ll have to get used to some of language they use.

Admissions cycle

The admissions cycle is the period of time – starting from September and running for a year– when applications are submitted by students and processed by the university. The following September to September period is the academic year being applied for.


If you’re a student applying for university and you don’t get the grades required for entry to the course of your choosing, you’ll have to enter clearing in order to secure a university place – this is where universities post their remaining course places.

Conditional/unconditional offers

When receiving offers from universities you’ve applied to, you’ll either receive a conditional offer – conditional on you achieving the entry requirements – or an unconditional – you’ve made the grade, and can attend if you wish.

Deferred entry

If you’ve been granted a place at the university of your choosing, but you want to hold off attending for a year, you can defer your entry until the following year, noting this on your UCAS form.

Firm/insurance choices

When deciding on which university offers you wish to choose, you must make a firm choice – your preferred institution – and an insurance choice – the university place (usually with lower requirements) that you will attend if you do not meet the requirements of your firm choice.


Some universities choose to use a points-based tariff when offering places, as opposed to a grades-based offer.

University terminology

While you’re applying for or studying at university, there are a number of pieces of terminology you’ll need to get on top of.


Staff at the university who are involved with educating students and researching are known as academics, as opposed to university support staff, who deal with the day-to-day running of the university.


Former students of a school or department are known as alumni.


Course credits are used to signify the weight of a particular module on your degree. In many universities, students will undertake 120 credits-worth of modules over a year, usually split over six modules.


Degrees are university qualifications, with most being designated as Batchelor of Science (BSc) or Batchelor of Arts (BA) degree. Higher education qualifications such as these are graded as either first class honours, second class honours (2:1 or 2:2), third class honours, and – depending on the institution – a pass mark with no honours.


Universities will usually comprise a number of faculties, which the schools and departments of the institution are placed under. At GSM London, the two faculties are the Faculty of Social Science, Law and Technology, and the Faculty of Business and management.


First year students who have just begun their studies are commonly referred to as freshers.


If you’ve received your final results, but haven’t yet received your degree, you’re known as a graduand.


In a large portion of universities, halls of residence are operated as a means of accommodation for students, particularly first year students. You’ll begin applying for halls after selecting a university as your firm choice – some universities won’t allow insurance candidates to apply until after they’ve received and accepted a place.


If you’ve completed an undergraduate programme or have the necessary experience and qualifications, you can study at a postgraduate level – a master’s (MA/MSc) or doctorate (PhD), for example.


If you’ve completed further education or have the required experiences or qualifications, you can apply to study an undergraduate course – for instance, a bachelor’s or foundation degree.


University terminology can be a little confusing at first, but once you’ve got to grips with it, it’ll become second nature. If you want more information on the university terms used at GSM London, please get in touch via email or telephone.

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