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Glossary of academic terms

Universities, like many large organisations, use words and phrases in a way peculiar to them. Here is an explanation in alphabetical order of some of the terms you may come across whose meaning may not be immediately obvious to you.

Definitions: A-C | D-G | H-N | O-S | T-Z

Academic year
The university year. The academic year at The University of Manchester runs from September to June. It is divided into of two semesters of teaching, with vacations at Christmas and Easter. 

Admissions
The admissions office of any university or college handles the applications and enrolments. View semester dates

Admissions Tutor
The person in a department or faculty who is responsible for applications and other enquiries about the admissions process.

A-levels
The exams most students take at the end of school or college (further education) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Usually, students heading for university take three or four A levels, or the equivalent, which include AS levels taken over two years, Highers in Scotland, the International Baccalaureate, or new qualifications such as vocational A levels.

Alumni
Former students.

Athletics Union/Sports Union
The organisation that runs student sports clubs and sometimes sports facilities.

Bachelor of... Arts, Science, Education, Engineering, etc.
At English and Welsh universities, this is the degree most undergraduate students are heading for. When you get it, you can put BA, BSc, BEd, BEng or whatever else is appropriate at the end of your name.

BA - Bachelor of Arts
A type of undergraduate degree that usually takes three years to complete. BA Hons means Bachelor of Arts with Honours. 

BEd - Bachelor of Education
A type of undergraduate degree that usually takes three years to complete. At Manchester we don't do a full time undergraduate degree in Education, but we do a part time BA (Hons) in Education.

BEng - Bachelor of Engineering
A type of undergraduate degree that usually takes three years to complete. BEng Hons means Bachelor of Engineering with Honours.

Blackboard
Blackboard is a virtual learning environment and many of the units that you will be taking will be available on this system. In its basic form Blackboard contains course material that is covered in lectures, plus additional resources that you may need.

BSc - Bachelor of Science
A type of undergraduate degree that usually takes three years to complete. BSc Hons means Bachelor of Science with Honours.

BUSA
The British Universities Sports Association.

BUSC
British Universities Snow-sports Council.

Bursary
A kind of scholarship. This contributes towards your fees and/or living costs whilst you are studying.

Campus
The area of land on which the university buildings are built. The University of Manchester is a single-site campus at the heart of the City of Manchester.

CATS (Credit Accumulation Transfer Scheme)
Allows students to gather credits for individual modules and is a more flexible way to get formal qualifications.

CDL (Career Development Loan)
A deferred-payment bank loan, like a student loan, but aimed at those who aren't entitled to one, whose employers aren't already footing the bill and who can't afford to pay the fees themselves.

Chaplain
Chaplains are on hand to offer religious guidance and support to those who want it.

Civic university
Universities such as The University of Manchester, which were established before 1992 and have strong associations with one of the UK's great cities.

Clearing
When you get your A-level results, if you don't get the grades required by your chosen universities, you can go through clearing. This is the system operated by UCAS to allocate students places on courses that still have vacancies after the publication of the A level results. 

College
A vague word that could mean (a) a sixth form college where students do A-levels, (b) a semi-self-contained unit in a collegiate university, (c) an institution of higher education that isn't allowed to call itself a university or (d) any university, college of higher education, its buildings and/or its administrative authorities.

Combined honours degree
An undergraduate degree course that involves several subject areas - usually three - in approximately equal parts (to start with at any rate).

Course
A programme of study leading to a degree or other qualification.

Course units
A course unit is generally worth 20 credits and is concerned with a specific area of study, for example ‘Introduction to the Sociology of Religion.’ In some Schools, course units are referred to as modules.

Credits
The University expresses the structure of most of its taught programmes in term of credits. Each academic year, at least 120 credits must be obtained to pass the course. Depending in your course, most course units are worth ten or 20 credits.