Language of a University

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Sometimes it can seem like universities have a language of their own. This is a guide to some of the words you may see and hear.

Academic Practices – these describe the ways in which you will learn at university. Academic Practices include reading, writing and referencing in an academic way as well as the processes of critical thinking and reflection. Together these will help you to produce assignments which are both original and a true reflection of your understanding of your subject. (See Plagiarsim).

APL or APEL (Accreditation of Prior Learning or Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning) – formal recognition of non-traditional qualifications and work experience, voluntary or paid, when applications for places are submitted. This can be particularly helpful for people returning to education after a break.

Assessment (Formative) – ongoing assessment throughout a course designed to measure understanding without the results counting towards the final course marks.

Assessment (Summative) – end of course assessment designed to measure the level of learning achieved; the results contribute to final course marks.

Assignments – set pieces of written work of a specified word length, which will be researched and written during the course. (Assignments can include Essays, Reports, or examples of practical work).

Bibliography –  a list of books at the end of an assignment which have been read in the preparation stages but which are not referred to directly (see References).

Campus – name given to the site of the university where all the main buildings are. People refer to being on-campus (being at the university) or off-campus (away from it).

Careers Service – available within a university for guidance and information relating to employment or continuing education.

CATS – Credit Accumulation Transfer Scheme – recognition of additional studying which can be ‘credited’ to a degree programme. Examples include an HND, previous work on a degree course or certain professional qualifications in a chosen area of study. Universities all agree on the scheme making it easier to transfer from one institution to another.

Degree – a higher education qualification (see Bachelor DegreesFoundation Degrees,Honours Degrees, and Higher Level Degrees).

Digital Literacies – the Internet has become integral to the higher education experience. Many teaching, learning and Library information sources will be online, most subject areas will expect assignments to be word processed and email the most common form of communication. You will need to develop confidence and competence with working in digital environments. If you feel you need additional help or support, be sure to ask your tutors or subject librarians for advice on where to go for additional training courses.

Dissertation – degrees involve independent research into an area which is often known as writing a Dissertation.

Distance Learning – students who are registered at a university but do not attend the campus are often referred to as distance learning students. Teaching and learning materials are delivered by post or online and communication is done via post, email or telephone.

Higher Level Degrees – these postgraduate degrees involve specialising in an area within a chosen subject and setting up an independent research project. Postgraduate qualifications start with PG Certificate, Diploma and Masters. Masters degrees include the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), an Arts Master (MA) and a Science Masters (MSc). Doctorates are higher than Masters and include the Philosophy doctorate (PhD) or Education doctorate (EdD); these entitle the holder to call themselves Doctor. For more information on the UK education classification system go to

Mature Students – anyone over 21 is considered to be a mature student; this commonly includes students returning to education after a career or family break. There is no age limit on going to university and courses include people from a wide variety of age groups.

Plagiarism – this is cheating by copying work from elsewhere and then claiming it as your own. Universities have strict rules about including sources of information (see References or Bibliography) to try and prevent plagiarism. Universities also have plagiarism detection software which can match work with existing materials and highlight those inconsistencies in style which occur when sections of work have been copied. For more information about correct referencing and avoiding plagiarism, contact your Academic Subject Librarian through the Library.

References – a list of all sources of information directly referred to in an essay or assignment; including books, journals, newspapers and websites. References will follow a recognised style such as the Harvard style; handout sheets with guidelines will be provided. (See Bibliography)

Tutorials – opportunities for single student, or small learning groups, to discuss with a tutor new ideas or areas of uncertainty regarding course content.

Undergraduate – the name for a student studying for their first degree which will normally take 3 years for a full time student.

Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) – a university’s intranet used to host online teaching and learning materials. A VLE is usually password protected and restricted to staff and students. Blackboard is the VLE currently used at the University of Lincoln.

About the Author

Christopher Wardle-Cousins

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