University jargon buster

A student generated list of commonly used terms that will help you understand the language used at university a little better.

Learning at Lincoln - A man in a blue shirt holding an iPhone.

Definitions submitted by University of Lincoln students Emily Jackson, Liam O’Dell, Alex Keene, Carrie Pendle & Lauren Jepson.

  • Academic Subject Librarian

    Your Academic Subject Librarian can help you with all your Library, Referencing and Information queries, book an appointment with them if you need their help.

  • Academic year

    The period of time between the start of timetabled sessions (usually late September) and end of timetabled sessions (usually May/June for most undergraduate students). For a lot of courses, the academic year will finish with end-of-year exams. Postgraduate courses usually have a longer academic year that doesn’t finish with the end of timetabled sessions, but continues with dissertation submissions or research projects.

  • Admissions

    Admissions is the process of applying to university. There’s an admissions team that will look through your application.

  • Alumni

    Once you graduate from university, you become part of the university alumni community, which is a Latin term to describe former students who have graduated. Alumni is the collective term for all graduates.

  • Assignment

    An assignment is a task set during your university course. This will often be some form of written work, but it can be something more practical if your degree is creative or design-based in nature. An assignment is often called ‘coursework’ and you will usually be asked to complete this to a deadline – either independently or in groups – outside of lectures and university sessions.

  • BA/BSc etc. (BEng)

    BA= Bachelor of Arts, BSc= Bachelor of Science, BEng= Bachelor of Engineering. These are undergraduate academic degrees awarded after completion of courses – most take 3 years but some can take longer.

  • Bachelors

    A bachelors degree is what you are normally awarded after completion of an undergraduate degree.

  • Blackboard

    Blackboard is the online tool that the University uses as its learning portal or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It’s a website which will include all of your course information and it’s where you will upload and submit assignments, work and maybe even your dissertation! After you have submitted your work, Blackboard will also be where you go to find out your grades.

  • Campus

    The area on which a university is based, which includes its buildings. For some universities, this can be all in one place, whilst universities in big cities might be more spread out and have more than one campus or ‘site’ where lessons and buildings are located.

  • Clearing

    Clearing is an alternative system of applying to university. If you don’t receive the grades you expected, you can apply to courses with available places at different universities to the ones you originally chose through Clearing.

  • Defferal

    Deferral has two definitions. The first is related to your university application – you can defer your application to the following year, allowing for a gap year before coming to Lincoln. Deferral of assignments – in extenuating circumstances you can ask for an extension on completing your assignments.

  • Degree

    A degree is what a university student studies towards at university and achieves at graduation. It is an official qualification and a degree can be at an undergraduate (BA/BSc/BEng) or postgraduate (MA) level. Undergraduate degrees can usually be achieved after three years of study, whilst a Master’s degree can be achieved after one or two years of study, following on from an undergraduate degree.

  • Dissertation

    A dissertation is an extended piece of writing on a subject of your choice. My dissertation was a final consolidation of my knowledge and favourite topics during my three years of studying. Not all courses require you to write dissertations, and the length of a dissertation varies from course to course. If you do have to write a dissertation, you will be assigned a dissertation tutor who will support and guide you through the process.

  • Distance Learning

    Distance learning means you are rarely, or never, on campus and will be studying online independently. You may also be studying to upgrade your operational skills whilst working in your job. You will be supported electronically within the virtual learning environment, Blackboard with electronic material, such as digital library material, to support you.

  • Employability

    Your level of “employability” is how likely a prospective employer is to hire you to work for them with the current qualifications and experiences you have. University is a great time to take up new things that will improve your employability and the Careers team and Students Union will be on hand to support you in this.

  • Extension

    An extension is when your assignment deadline is pushed back. You can apply for an extension, although it will only be granted in extenuating circumstances.

  • Feedback

    Feedback is really important to know what you’ve done well and where you’ve gone wrong with your work. Feedback can be given by your lecturers during their office hours before a deadline, or via Blackboard when your assignments are returned. You should take on board any feedback given to you because it will enable you to reach higher grades in future assignments.

  • Foundation degree

    A foundation degree is equivalent to two-thirds of an honours bachelor’s degree. They usually last two years if you are studying full time, but year-long courses are available as a “top up” before you begin a bachelor’s degree.

  • Fresher

    A fresher is a first-year university student. During the first week of term, there are events held specifically for Freshers Week – these range from an activities fayre and sports trials to nights out at the Students Union. Freshers week is a lot of fun and will give you the chance to meet new people who will likely be your friends for life!

  • Graduate

    Verb: To graduate means to complete your degree, whether that be undergraduate or postgraduate. Noun: A graduate is a person that has successfully completed their degree course.

  • Graduation

    Your graduation is the culmination of all your hard work and is a ceremony that takes place at the Lincoln Cathedral where you are presented with your degree certificate.

  • Grant

    A grant is a form of financial aid that is given to students that meet specific criteria. Unlike a loan, a grant (or bursary) does not need to be paid back. When applying for student finance you can select to share your financial data with the university. This will automatically allow the University to see if you fit any of the criteria enabling you to receive a grant.

  • HE

    Higher Education – Studying at university or at a university equivalent level.

  • Home student

    A home student is usually classed as a British or European citizen studying in the UK – if you qualify as a home student, you will pay less in tuition fees than overseas students.

  • Independent learning

    At university, you are expected to have some elements of independent learning – more so as the years go on. Independent learning is where you will research a topic needed for exams or an assignment that will not necessarily be taught in formal lectures.

  • Joint Honours

    A joint honours degree is where you study two subjects which are combined together to make one degree. You will normally do half of the modules from one course and half from another. Joint honours is a great choice if you can not decide between two subjects and want to expand your knowledge in more than one area.

  • Lecture/Lecturer

    Lectures are, funnily enough, taught by lecturers. Your lecturer will stand before the entire course and speak about a topic needed for a module. You will normally then be given the opportunity to discuss this topic and ask questions in smaller seminar groups later in the week.

  • Lecture Recording (Panopto)

    Lecture Recordings are a way for you to go back and re-listen to lecturers – they are a great resource for revision and deeper learning. They are not, however, an excuse to skip lectures because it is much more beneficial for you to attend the lecture rather than rely solely on recordings.

  • Librarian

    Each course will have a specific subject librarian – you can go to them with specific queries. They will be able to point you in the right direction for books and journal articles for your assignments.

  • Lincoln Award

    The Lincoln Award is a way to enhance your skills and employability which is recognised by employers. To participate in the Lincoln Award you must do extra-curricular activities which have to be signed off by the leader of that activity. For example, Journalism students are likely to help out with Siren Radio – this is recognised as an activity for the Lincoln Award and is also great work experience.

  • Masters

    A masters degree is a postgraduate degree. You can do a masters after completing your undergraduate degree – masters are usually subject-specific and will enhance your knowledge on a topic.

  • Mature student

    Anyone over the age of 21 when beginning their degree is classed as a mature student.

  • Mitigating Circumstances

    Mitigating circumstances are situations that may affect you academically but are out of your control, for example, a medical condition. If something of this nature happens, the University may give you allowances such as extensions on coursework. It’s always a good idea to speak to your tutor if something happens during your university career that might be classed as mitigating circumstances.

  • Module

    Your course is made up of modules – these are different topics that are essential to your learning. In second and third year you usually have some choice over what modules you study.

  • Personal tutor

    Your personal tutor is an academic member of staff for your course and they will be there to support and guide you through your studies and answer any queries you might have. Approximately once a term you will have a personal tutor meeting which is like an update where they will check on your progress and you can speak to them about any worries you might have. You don’t have to wait until these meetings to speak to them, as they are your personal tutor throughout your time at university.

  • PhD

    A PhD is the highest form of degree you can receive. In order to complete a PhD you must submit a thesis/dissertation or long form project of any kind that focuses on an original piece of research – so effectively you will do an essay on a topic that has previously not been covered in the same way by anyone else. People with a PhD can usually take the title Dr.

  • Placements

    Placements are a great way to improve your future employability. On certain courses, you may get the opportunity to do a placement, which normally involves taking a break from studying and working in the field you wish to go into for a period of time. Work placements can vary in length from a single day to a year and can be paid or unpaid. Check with your course tutors for more detail on what placement opportunities are available for your area of study.

  • Plagiarism

    Plagiarism is when you copy somebody else’s work without giving them credit – for example taking a quote from a book, not referencing it and then claiming it as your own work. Plagiarism is easily detected in assignments because most assignments are handed in via TurnItIn and they can create a plagiarism percentage to see how much of your work is not your own.

  • Postgraduate

    A postgraduate degree can be completed after your undergraduate degree. These degrees involve more detailed study in a specific subject area, and they are also known as masters degrees or PhDs. Whilst studying at this level you may be referred to as a postgraduate, or postgrad.

  • Prospectus

    A prospectus is a booklet or document containing information about all of the courses a university has to offer. It should also include the grade requirements and some information about the courses. You can normally request a print copy of a prospectus from a university website for free, although most will also be available to view online.

  • Referencing

    Referencing is when you state which book or journal article you got a particular quote from when writing an essay. If you don’t do this, it would seem that you were claiming the words as your own and this would, therefore, be considered as plagiarism.

  • Semester

    Your academic year at university is split into two semesters – normally you will be required to complete an assignment for each module every semester.

  • Seminar

    A seminar is a small group session with the discussion led by the students and guided by a lecturer or tutor. In seminars, you’re given the opportunity to explore and develop your understanding of topics that were raised in lectures.

  • Single honours

    A single-honours degree is when you choose to just study one degree subject as opposed to a joint honours degree. Examples of single honours degrees are Biomedical Science, Law, Journalism, English etc. Most people choose a single honours degree as they’re more specific and if you know exactly what job you want to go into in the future, a single honours degree is probably the better option for you.

  • Societies

    Societies are a great way of making new friends at university and I would urge anyone to get involved with them. There is a Societies fair at the very start of term, and you can walk around and find out what societies are available – they range from The Harry Potter Society to Dance to Rugby Union to Musical Theatre. There is definitely a society for everyone, and you can create your own society if you can’t find one you like! Societies are completely separate from your course and are a lot of fun. Normally you will get a Wednesday afternoon off from university lectures (timetables permitting) which means, if you choose to do a sport, you’ll be able to attend your matches.

  • Students Union

    The Students Union is run by a dedicated team of ex-students so they know exactly what students want and need. They are almost like the student government of the University, and they implement changes that need to be made. They listen to suggestions made by students and make sure they happen – for example, Lincoln Students Union has recently started putting sanitary items in the bathrooms that are free for students to take and use. The Students Union also has its own venues. In Lincoln, there is Tower Bar, The Swan and the Engine Shed – all of these venues have specific events aimed at students.

  • Subject Librarian

    A subject librarian is a librarian who specialises in your course. Your subject librarian will usually be mentioned in your module guide, or you can find them on the library website – they are there to assist you with referencing and finding relevant books for your course.

  • Tuition fees

    Tuition fees are what you are charged to attend university. Tuition fees are currently £9,250 per year (in August 2018) and this amount will be paid on your behalf each year of your studies by the government in the form of a loan. You don’t have to start paying this back until you have graduated and are earning over £25,000 per annum.

  • Tutor

    A tutor is a teacher or lecturer at university. You will also have a personal tutor, and their aim is to help you not only academically but also to support your wellbeing during the course. You can arrange to meet with your personal tutor to discuss any issues you are having. You may also have a dissertation tutor who guides you through the dissertation process.

  • Tutorial

    A tutorial is a meeting, usually with your personal tutor, to see how you are getting on with university life and to talk about any worries you might have. Tutorials are normally scheduled once a term and they will appear on your university timetable.

  • Undergraduate

    An undergraduate is anyone studying for an undergraduate degree. Undergraduate students are also often referred to as First Years, Second Years and Third Years, depending on the level they have reached in their undergraduate degree.

  • UROS

    The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Scheme (UROS) offers undergraduate students funded opportunities to gain hands-on research experience. Successful projects are awarded a student bursary of up to £1000, which allows them to collaborate with University staff on research projects during the summer break.


  • Wellbeing

    Wellbeing refers to both your mental and physical health. Tutors and staff at university will be looking out for your wellbeing and ensuring you are coping. If, at any point, you feel you are not coping or there is something on your mind, you can visit the University’s Wellbeing Centre and talk to an advisor and appropriate support will be provided if needed.

  • Workshops

    Not all courses have them, but for those that do, these are practical sessions that involve actively participating as an individual or as a group. The type of workshops you have will depend on your course, but they can last up to 3 hours depending on the activity.

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