Demystifying University Terminology!

Posted by Studentbox user
on 09/11/2016 at in  Going to uni

Reading brochures and information from a Uni - even browsing their websites can be confusing – it can sometimes feel like they are using another language.  Below are a few common terms that will hopefully help you understand what they are talking about!


An Academic Calendar  contains the dates for standard enrolment events, key study periods and holidays. It is usually created a few years in advance, so you can go to the website of the Uni you are interested in, and search for ‘Academic calendar’ to get an idea of the structure of their academic year.

Admission is when your application to Uni has been accepted and they offer you a place at the Uni. to undertake a course of study.

Admission requirements are the minimum criteria you must fulfil in order to gain entry to University.  Most Unis will have some general admission requirements (e.g. minimum ATAR score), but they can also vary from course to course.  See some examples here:

Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) provides the ranking which is used for allocating places in university courses. It is calculated from the Tertiary Entrance Score (TES) for school leavers.  There is a bit more information on ATAR and scaling here:


A bachelor degree is what the Uni call an ‘undergraduate course’.  You would be awarded a bachelor degree for successful completion of an undergraduate course. The bachelor degree is the standard university award, recognised worldwide. You can see some bachelor degrees (undergraduate courses) here.

A bridging course is a course of study that you would do before commencing a bachelor degree.  Bridging courses (sometimes called Enabling courses) are designed to assist potential students, who have met most entry requirements, but need to satisfy other prerequisites or English competence requirements. You can see examples of bridging courses ( here.


Campus refers to the main university grounds, including laboratories, lecture theatres, administration buildings, recreational areas etc.

Contact hours are the hours a student is expected to spend attending tutorials, practicals, lectures etc, at university.  Contact hours at a Uni can be very different to High School.  Unlike high school a student is not expected to be on campus at all time, only to attend their lectures and tutorials. 

A course refers to a degree (see Bachelor degree or undergraduate course).  It is a combination of approved units, all relating to the field you have chosen to study. Completion of an undergraduate course usually requires three to four years full-time study, generally you would undertake 4 units per semester to complete your degree in that time frame.

A course coordinator is the lecturer responsible for overseeing a particular course.  You can contact them if you need any specific information about your course.


Deferred study (for school leavers) is study that is approved to begin in the first semester of the following  year, allowing a 12-month break between high school and Uni. You would still apply for Uni at the end of Year 12, then request deferred study so they hold your place for you.  (Deferred study is commonly called a ‘gap year’.

A degree is an award given by the University when you complete(and pass!)  your course .   The ‘standard’ undergraduate degree is the bachelor degree.

A double degree  is when a student two contrasting and complementary courses at the same time.  The courses are of the same level have been combined (by the Uni) to complement each other. The combination of degrees might vary from Uni to Uni – and example can be found here (


An elective is a unit that is freely chosen by  you (the student) within the course you are studying.  Courses have several units that you would be required to complete in order to pass your course, but they also offer several other units you can choose from so you can hone in on your area of interest.

Enrolment is the process of applying to study a course.  Most Uni’s have different ways of applying. You can see an example here.

Entry requirements are in addition to admission requirements.  They are course-specific criteria. You need to fulfil the course-specific criteria as well as the University Admission requirements to qualifies for entry to that course.


Faculties (also called Teaching Areas) are primary academic divisions. A Faculty is made up of Schools which relate to each other in some way.  E.g. The Faculty of Health Sciences would house Schools such as the School of Public Health, the School of Biomedical Science, the School of Pharmacy etc.  You can see some examples here:


A graduate is a person who has successfully completed an award course at the University.


The Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) is a Commonwealth Government loan scheme providing financial assistance to tertiary students. A HELP loan can cover all or part of a student’s unit fees, or provide a discount to students paying up-front.  You can find out more about HELP on the Study Assist website.

Honours is an additional year of study where you produce a specialist work of research - i.e. a thesis or portfolio of work, depending on the area of study. Honours may be included in an undergraduate program, usually in the third year of study, or may be an extra, forth, year of study – or you may receive an invitation to complete an honours year from your University if your marks are high. Having an Honours degree can be a big advantage in the competitive job market showing employers that you have higher level of critical writing and research skills. An Honours degree is also the main pathway to postgraduate degrees (such as Masters or Doctorate degrees).


Incidental fees are course-specific expenses, additional to normal unit fees, which may be compulsory or optional.  An example of an incidental fee might be a lab coat, or books required for the unit.


A lecture is a presentation, usually given by someone who knows their stuff.  A lecture is intended give you critical information, history, background, theories and/or equations to you that is relevant to your course of study (and might be important for your exam!). Lectures run from 50 minutes up to three hours in length and can contain anywhere from 2-200 people. You are expected to listen carefully and take notes (with little guidance from the lecturer) which you will you to revise for exams, reference for assessments and so on.

Lecturers are instructors or presenters that deliver information you – usually in a lecture setting. Most lecturers are also tutors.


A major is a series of units combined to satisfy the University’s requirements in an area of specialisation and includes at least two units at final year level. There must be more components that constitute the major than components that constitute any other single area.  That’s a mouthful!  It basically means that you can choose to tailor your degree to your preferences.  Most degrees require you to choose a major, but you won’t have to do that until after your first (or foundation) year.  Usually the first year allows you to try many different, but related, units – so you will get a chance to find out what subjects you prefer.

Matriculation status is a permanent status gained when you have satisfied the minimum admission requirements ( ) for university entry. Matriculation Status does not guarantee entry to a particular course of study, you might be required to meet further criteria for your chosen course.


A non school leaver is a student who begins university more than one year after completing high school. These students are also called mature-age students, so they can be someone who took two gap years, to someone who decided to get a degree later in life.


Online courses are delivered via the Internet and/or via email with minimal or no direct contact between the student and lecturers. Many units include social networking in the form of discussion forums, chat rooms and team projects. You can see some examples here

Orientation Week (O Week) is held the week before the start of each semester and is a week in which a variety of events and activities are held to help orient and welcome new students to the university. O'Week is a must to attend for all new students to uni.


Postgraduate students are students that have completed (and passed) an undergraduate course, such as a bachelor degree, and are continuing their studies by completing an award such as a graduate certificate, graduate diploma, master or doctorate.  You can see take a look through some postgraduate courses here:

Preparatory program covers bridging, enabling and foundation programs.  These type of courses are designed to help you achieve pre-requisites for a specific Uni course.

A prerequisite is a required subject/unit deemed necessary for entry to higher level studies in a particular area.


Scholarships are awards carrying financial advantage in undertaking a specified program or course of study. Scholarships vary in size and type, but are usually in the form of a partial payment of fees, or meeting of costs associated with the program or course of study such as living costs, purchases of books or accommodation.

Schools make up part of Curtin’s organisational structure. Schools fall within the larger categorisation of Faculties (see faculties above).

A semester is the academic teaching period of about 17 weeks in duration. Each academic year is divided into two semesters.  An example of how this might be broken up is: 12 teaching weeks, 2 tuition free weeks, one study week and 2 weeks of exams.  The way a semester is constructed will vary from Uni to Uni, but you can check out their Academic calendar to get an idea of your chosen Uni’s semester structure.


Tertiary Entrance Examination (TEE) is the exam for secondary students finishing year 12 in Western Australia…but I’m guessing you know that already! Your TEE result determines your eligibility for entry to Uni…so study!

Tertiary Institutions Service Centre (TISC) is an incorporated body established in 1975 by Curtin University of Technology, Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University and The University of Western Australia which provides services to university applicants including the processing of applications for university admission and facilitation of the STAT.

A tutor is an academic staff member who supervises tutorials for small groups of students .

Tutorials are small discussion groups lead by a tutor. Generally you would be required to attend one tutorial per week for each unit. Tutorials are an opportunity to  discuss the key topics, concepts and ideas of the course with your tutors. Tutorials are closely linked to assessment and often involve small group discussions and group work. 


An undergraduate is a student studying an award course usually leading to a bachelor degree – so basically this would be you if/when you go to Uni.  You would be an undergraduate until you complete your degree.  Students who go on to do honours are classified as graduate students, having already completed an undergraduate course.

A unit is a discrete entity of study within a subject area that is a component of a course. A unit outline is a summary of essential information relating to the unit being studied and is made available to students enrolled in the unit prior to the date of the first scheduled class contact.

A unit coordinator is the lecturer responsible for running a particular unit.  They will generally run most lectures and some tutorials.  You would contact them if you were having any issues or needed an assessment extension (those are hard to get though!).

700 x 300 - 136K
Sign In or Register to comment.
© Copyright 2016 Curtin University      User agreement | Report an issue
  • Powered by
  • Curtin University