Glossary of university terms

On this page you will find words commonly used by universities and Higher Education Institutions.

Jargon buster A-Z


Admissions – The admissions team at a university is responsible for processing the applications received via UCAS. They will assess each application, based on the applicants' qualifications, and will decide if the university is able to offer the applicant a place on the course. The admissions team at the University of Hertfordshire can be contacted on +44 (0)1707 284800.

Alumni – Any person who successfully completes a university course becomes an alumnus of that university.


Bachelor’s degree – The type of undergraduate qualification students are awarded after successfully completing a 3- or 4-year university or college degree. Bachelor’s degrees have a range of titles including Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Engineering (BEng), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Education (BEd), Bachelor of Law (LLB) etc. See a list of undergraduate courses.

Bursary – A means-tested, non-repayable, sum of money given to students who meet the eligibility criteria. More about bursaries.


Campus – The buildings and land of a university. At the University of Hertfordshire, we have two main campuses - College Lane and de Havilland. We also have a smaller campus at Bayfordbury which houses our Observatory.

Campus tour – An opportunity to visit a university. Campus tours are smaller events than university open days. Book a campus tour.

Clearing – A process allowing prospective students without a university place to apply for university courses which haven’t been filled. The process takes place in August each year.

Conditional offer – The applicant will be given a place at university if certain conditions are met, for example set A-level results have to be achieved. More about university offers.


Degree Apprenticeship – An alternative to university study. Apprentices are in full-time employment while studying for their degree. The employer will fund the apprenticeship. More about Degree Apprenticeships.

Dissertation – Large piece of work to be completed in the last year of a degree programme, focusing the student’s learning on one area.


Entry requirements – The grades or qualifications a student must obtain in order to be accepted onto a university course. Entry requirements vary across universities and courses. Look up entry requirements for courses at the University of Hertfordshire.


Firm choice – A student can apply for up to 5 courses/universities. During the application process, they will make one of the courses their firm/favourite choice. More about choices.


Gap year – Students can take a gap year before they start university or straight after graduation. Students on gap years may travel or do paid or voluntary work.

Grant – Money given to a student for a particular purpose, e.g. living costs. (Only available to students on courses with a start date before August 2016.)


Halls of residence – Student accommodation on campus. Often available for first year students. More about accommodation.

Higher Education (HE) – Study at this level is normally undertaken by students over the age of 18.


Insurance offer – Second choice of university course in case the student doesn’t get the grades for the course they have chosen as their firm choice. More about offers.


Lecturer – Teacher at university. In addition to teaching, a lecturer may also carry out research into his/her subject area.


Maintenance loans – A loan to help students with their living costs. Applications are made through Student Finance England. More about student finance.

Master’s degree – A postgraduate qualification that students can study towards after completing their Bachelor's degree. Degree titles include Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc), Master of Research (MRes) and Master of Philosophy (MPhil). See a list of postgraduate courses.


Online distance learning – A flexible way to study for a degree. Often used by students who are unable to attend lectures on campus. More about online courses.

Open day – An opportunity for prospective students and their parents to visit a university campus and speak to staff and current students. Open days are an excellent opportunity to find out what it is really like to study at a university. Book an open day at the University of Hertfordshire.


Personal statement – A text written by the student in support of their university application. Admissions tutors use personal statements to help identify the applicants most suited for a course. The statement should highlight the applicant’s skills and ambitions. How to write a personal statement.

Placement year – A year of work experience. Often optional. The placement is usually taken between the second and third year of study. Students who choose a placement year graduate from university with work experience as well as a degree.

Postgraduate degree – A Higher Education degree, normally undertaken after an undergraduate degree. PG awards include titles such as Master of Arts (MA) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). See a list of postgraduate courses.


Reference – A reference has to be provided with the UCAS application. It is normally written by one of the teachers at the applicant’s school. The reference is submitted directly to UCAS by the school.


Scholarship – A grant awarded to some students to help them with the cost of going to university. Students are selected to receive a scholarship based on academic achievement or other set criteria. More about scholarships.

Sandwich degree – Generally a 4-year degree programme in which the third year is completed in an industry-related paid placement.

Semester – The University of Hertfordshire’s academic year is divided into 3 semesters, A, B and C. View terms and semester dates.

Subject taster day – An opportunity to try a subject for a day at university before you apply.

Students’ Union – Most universities have a Students’ Union. They look after the students’ interests and organise events throughout the year. More about Hertfordshire Students’ Union.


Tuition fee loans – Paid directly to the university from Student Finance England. More about tuition fees and funding.


UCAS – University and College Admission Services. Most university applications are made via the UCAS website. More about the application process.

UCAS Hub – A place on the UCAS website where students can follow the progress of their university application. Visit the UCAS Hub.

Unconditional offer – A message confirming that an applicant has been successful in securing a place on a university course.

Undergraduate degree – Normally the first Higher Education degree undertaken by students over the age of 18. See a list of undergraduate courses.


Withdrawal – A message confirming that an applicant has changed their mind and no longer wishes to be considered for a course.