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Guide to terms and references used in higher education


1994 Group
A coalition of 'smaller research-intensive universities' founded to defend their interests after the larger research-intensive universities formed the Russell Group. Royal Holloway is a member of the 1994 Group.

Academic Year 
The university year, which normally runs from September to June each year.
Access Course
A course for mature students (over 21) who lack the appropriate formal qualifications to enter Higher Education. Successful completion can enable them to commence a course in Higher Education.
A policy relating to disabled access to buildings and public services by users deemed to have a physical or mental impairment. See also SENDA.
Admissions Tutor
The person in a department or faculty who is responsible for applications and other enquiries about the admissions process.
Those who have successfully passed a course at university, the singular is alumnus (male) or alumna (female).
The process whereby a new course is assessed prior to being given the go-ahead, or a department is awarded membership of an accrediting organization such as AMBA.

Bachelors Degree 
These are awarded to students who have successfully passed their undergraduate degree course such as Bachelor or Arts or Bachelor of Science. See also Masters Degree.
A list of publications used in writing an assignment, essay or book.
Board of Examiners
A group of academic staff who make decisions on a student's progress at the end of the year and on final degree classifications.
A bursary is a non-repayable amount of money given to an eligible student in financial need to help with their education and living costs.

A large group of university buildings, usually covering a whole area.
Candidate number
Exam number issued individually to each student each year to ensure anonymity of the marking process.
A place where members of different religions may be on hand to offer guidance and support.
Classification  (degree class)
The standard of a degree: first class honours, upper second class honours (2.1), lower second class honours (2.2), third class honours, and pass.
A system that operates after A Level (and other pre-university qualification) results are known, which allows prospective students without a university place to apply a second time for vacant places, which haven't been filled by first round applications.
Combined honours
A degree in which a student studies a combination of two or three different subjects.
Conditional offer  
Offer of a place on a course at university dependent on A-level or other results. See also unconditional offer.
Continuous assessment
This is when a student’s work is assessed regularly on an ongoing basis, rather than just by end-of-year examinations.
Core unit 
A course that is compulsory and must be completed successfully in order to pass a programme.
These are the points awarded for each course.

A dean is a senior academic who acts as head of a faculty.
Deferred entry
An application for, or an offer of, a university place a year or more before the course starts, often because the student is planning to take a gap year.
Degree class
See classification.
Academic staff are grouped into departments. The School of Management is a department within the History and Social Sciences Faculty.
A long essay or report, usually of several thousand words, on a specific subject area – often completed in the final year of study.
Distance learning (DL)
This is where students primarily or exclusively study at home: in some cases there may be some face-to-face sessions. Students are provided with specially-prepared learning materials, either printed or electronically in the form of CD-ROMs, TV and radio programmes, or web-based resources. The institution they are registered with is also responsible for marking and commenting on their work, and provided counselling and tutorial support.


This is learning that takes place using information technology as a resource. It can take many forms and may use web-based teaching materials incorporating multimedia, discussion boards, blogs, wikis or quizzes.
Where you have a choice of courses within a programme, the courses you may or may not decide to take are known as electives. See also core unit.


A group of several related departments usually within an academic area, that are grouped together for teaching, research and administrative purposes.
The money most students need to pay the university towards the cost of their course.
Finals are the exams in the last year of study. Some degree classifications also take into account the results from your previous years' study.
This is the traditional term used for undergraduate students starting the first year of a course.
Freshers’ Fair (also known as Freshers' Week)
This is a series of events, including sports and other non-academic activities, run by the Students' Union to welcome new students into the University's social life. It usually takes place over the first week of a new academic year and may coincide with Induction Week.


Gap Year
Some students take a year off, often before or during an undergraduate degree, and usually travel abroad or do voluntary work.
A student in the few months between finishing a course and attending graduation.
A graduate is a person who has been awarded a degree from a university. While studying for a first degree students are known as undergraduates, after they pass their degree they become a graduate. If they then go on to study a higher degree such as a Masters they are known as postgraduate students.  
The ceremony at which you are officially awarded your degree.


Halls (of residence)
University-owned accommodation in which some students live while studying. At most colleges the accommodation blocks traditionally provide cleaners, heat, light and electricity and a variety of amenities such as launderettes, common rooms and TV lounges. Some may provide meals but increasingly halls are becoming self-catering.
Hardship Fund
The Hardship Funds are a source of financial support provided by the Government and administered by the University to help meet the living costs of students who are experiencing financial hardship. The available funds are limited and are designed to provide supplementary rather than sole support to students having financial difficulties.
Higher degree
This is a degree above bachelor's level, such as a master's degree or doctorate.
Home student  
Generally a student who has had unrestricted right of residence in the EU for at least 3 years prior to the year of enrolment. This residence should not be for the purpose of full–time education.
Honours degree
An undergraduate degree awarded at first, second of third class. A pass grade is still a degree, but not good enough to be known as an honours degree.


Induction Week
This is the first week of a new academic year: students may register for their courses and find out essential information about university support and services. See also Freshers’ Fair.
International student 
A student not from the UK, EU or European Economic Area. 


The Joint Information Systems Committee supports UK education and research organizations in their use of information and communication technology (ICT). RHUL uses an online service provided by JISC called TurnitinUK which checks students' work for plagiarism.
Joint honours
An honours degree where two subjects are studied in the same depth. See alsomajor/minor honours.


A formal talk given by a subject specialist to a group of students. Students listen and take notes – some lectures may involve interaction between the lecturer and students.


Major/Minor honours
A degree for which a student studies two subjects, but concentrates on one which is their major subject, and also studies a second subject in less detail and this is known as their minor subject. See also joint honours.
Masters degrees
MBA, MA, MSc or MPhil degrees are awarded to graduates who have undertaken a further course of study after an honours degree. MPhil degrees are awarded after a period of research rather than by following a taught masters course.
Mature student  
A student who, at the start of a course, is either over 25, married or has been self-supporting for the previous three years.
The popular open-source Virtual Learning Environment used at Royal Holloway.


NUS Card
You get your NUS card from the Students' Union. It can enable students to get reduced prices on goods or services.


Personal tutor
A member of academic staff who can discuss progress and academic-related problems with individual students. The tutor can then write references later.
PhD or Doctor of Philosophy
This is a postgraduate qualification awarded following in-depth research of a specific topic over several years. People holding this qualification can use the title Dr.
Using or copying someone else's work without acknowledgement, with the intention of passing it off as your own. This is cheating and is not allowed at university. Plagiarism can be avoided by referencing and attributing the relevant passages. See also bibliography.
This refers to a graduate who is studying for a second degree. It is also used to describe a course intended for students who already possess a degree.
A senior academic in a particular field of study.
The chief executive of a college, such as Royal Holloway. They may be assisted in their work by several Vice-Principals.
A number of courses make up a programme, such as an undergraduate or masters degree.
A booklet giving details of a university or college and its courses, entry requirements, and similar information useful to prospective students.


The Quality Assurance Agency is an independent organisation that undertakes regular subject reviews for teaching quality in higher education.


The Research Assessment Exercise is carried out periodically to determine the quality of research in UK universities. It is primarily about reputation, and provides an extra source of funding for those institutions with the highest quality research.
Rag (from 'raise and give') is a week when students raise money for charity and some people see as an excuse to dress up in silly clothes and get up to wacky antics.
The head of the administration of a college or university.
The Registry provides a wide range of administrative services from admissions, student support and academic development. It is responsible for registering and enrolling students on courses, as well as exam results and other matters relating to course completion.
Russell Group  
An association of 20 large research-intensive UK universities formed in 1994 at a meeting held in Russell Square. See also 1994 group.


A sabbatical is when you take time out: [1] for students, it is if you are elected to work full-time for a students' union as president, welfare officer or communications officer or similar; [2] for academic staff, it is when you have a period free of teaching and administration that you use to do research.
These are financial awards given to students, who satisfy certain criteria, towards the cost of their study.
These are interactive sessions with up to 25 students who meet with the tutor to discuss pre set work presented by individuals or groups of students.
SENDA (Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001)
This requires universities to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled students are not at a substantial disadvantage in relation to time, inconvenience, effort and discomfort.
Single honours
An honours degree course during which a students studies a single subject area.
A studentship is a non-repayable amount of money provided to a postgraduate student to undertake a taught or research programme. They are usually provided through the University, College, or School to which the student belongs, and are mainly funded by the Government's Research Councils, although other funds may come from the EU, industry and other sources.
Students' Union (SU or Union)
Each university has a Students’ Union (part of the National Union of Students). A student-run organisation, the Students’ Union represents the interests of students and provides a range of information and activities. » RHUL Student's Union


Periods of approximately 3 or more months, an academic year is divided into 3 terms: autumn term, spring term and summer term.
A record of the courses you have taken and the grades achieved; used for job and PhD applications.
An academic who oversees or supervises the work of individual students.


The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, which is responsible for processing applications for courses at universities and colleges.
UOA (Unit of Assessment)
The subject categories for the Research Assessment Exercise. There are 67 for RAE 2008.
Unconditional offer  
Offer of a place on a course at university not dependent on A-level or any other results. See also conditional offer.
This is the term used for a student who is studying for a first degree. It is also used to describe a first degree course. See also postgraduate.


The process by which a course is judged to have met the requirements for an award by the relevant degree-awarding or examining body.
This is often the title of the chief executive of a university. In the case of Royal Holloway, which is a college of the University of London, our chief executive is the Principal.
VLE or Virtual Learning Environment
Essentially an interactive website that users log into which aids learning by using various online learning tools. VLEs can help to support conventional learning. Royal Holloway uses Moodle.


When a small group of students meet their lecturer or course tutor to discuss a subject in depth.

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