Higher Education Lingo Explained
A guide for common terms you may come across in your search for a college or university.
If you are planning to study abroad, and have sat down to do a bit of research on schools, programs and places to study at, you’re probably overwhelmed by a ton of new words and information.
There are a lot of ‘foreign’ terms related to higher education. Ofttimes several education-related terms can also ascribe to the same meaning – a common experience with words used in US and the UK.
We have compiled a short guide to help you distinguish and decipher some of this lingo.
Advanced Level (A-Levels) Advanced Supplementary Level (AS-Levels): A-Levels and AS-Levels are terms common to the UK and refer to the exams a high school student in the UK takes at the end of their final years of schooling in order to get accepted into an undergraduate program. This however should not be confused with Advanced Placement (AP), a term common to the US which refers to college level courses that ‘outstanding’ high school students can take to earn credit while in school.
Associate’s Degree, Diploma of Higher Education, Foundation Degree: All three terms are closely related. An associate’s degree is what you call a two-year full-time degree awarded by a college in the US. A Diploma of Higher Education carries the same meaning in the UK, but the courses tend to revolve around the fields of nursing, education, health and social sciences. A foundation degree consists of the first two years of study of an honors degree. It’s more flexible, may be full time or part time, and may or may not include work experience.
Audit, Pre-sessional: Audit is a term used in American colleges. An audit is a class taken to gain knowledge on a subject, without receiving credits. Pre-sessional is a term used in the UK referring to additional lessons that are taken to prepare for a course. For example, English language lessons for students whose first language isn’t English, to prepare for a course taken in English.
Dean, Vice-Chancellor: A Dean is the head of a college or university in the US, whereas a Vice-Chancellor is the working head of a university in the UK (the Chancellor is a honorary head).
Dorms, Halls of Residence: Both these terms are used in the US and the UK. Dorms and halls of residence are areas of accommodation provided to students by the university
Drop out, Withdraw: Both terms refer to the act of leaving college or university before program completion.
Dual Degree, Joint Degree: Programs that allow students to obtain two degrees from a university or college at the same time. These terms are often confused with a double major degree, in which the student obtains only one degree, but majors in more than one subject.
Freshman (Fresher), Sophomore, Junior, Senior: A first year student of a college/university is called a freshman or fresher. In the US, a student continues as a sophomore, junior and senior in their second, third, and final degree years, respectively.
GPA, Cumulative GPA: A popular education acronym in Northern America, GPA or Grade Point Average is the calculation of a student’s average grade over a given time period, such as a semester; Cumulative Grade Point Average refers to the average of a student’s grades over the course of their entire academic program.
Grant, Brusary, Fellowship: Often referred to as a scholarship, grant is money offered to students by the government, school or charity without expecting repay. Brusary is a form of financial aid as referred to in the UK; it consists of all types of money offered to students to assist their college payments, like assistantship, fellowship, scholarship, grant, etc. Fellowship is an amount of money awarded to an exceptional scholar for further learning and research within their particular field of study. A fellowship can last from a few months to several years.
Internship, Work-Study, Assistantship: Internships refer to practical experience or training, students take, generally after at least a year or so of college. These give students a sniff of a possible future work environment, and the learning experience is very different from that at college. Work-study is a program that lets students work on campus and earn to assist their finances at the institution. This is basically student employment – you work part-time and are paid by the federal government. Assistantship is financial help given to students in exchange for services, such as working in research or as a teaching assistant.
Matriculate and Registration: In US colleges, matriculate means to enroll in a program at a university or college, while in UK the same meaning applies to the term registration.
Modules and Courses: While a module is the same as a chapter, or a class or lecture focused on a given topic, a course is a unit of teaching or an individual subject that lasts a full term, consisting of several modules within.
Private School, Independent School: In contrast to state or government schools, these are privately run by individuals, a group, or a non-governmental agency. They are generally funded by students’ fees and do not receive any financial aid from the public.
Room & Board, Housing & Meals: Both refer to fees and details of the accommodation and dining facility that students choose at the college or university they will be attending.
Tuition, Per Credit Hour Costs: Tuition is a sum of money charged by an institution for the education provided; tuition fees can be conveyed as per semester, an annual charge or the total cost of a program. Per Credit Hour Costs, in very simple terms refers to the hourly cost of a course. In the US, a course is assigned ‘credit hours’. For example, if a course is 3 credit hours, the class meets 3 hours per week. If the cost is USD 500 per credit hour, students can multiply the cost by course credit to determine the cost of the course.
Undergraduate, Graduate and Postgraduate: Undergraduate describes the program level taken by a student doing their first degree (such as a Bachelor’s) after high school. Generally three or four years long, such degrees are the most common higher education qualification. Postgraduate refers to a highly specialised higher education degree taken by a student after they have completed their bachelor’s or undergraduate degree. The same is called a ‘graduate’ degree in the US.
About the Author: Divya Kilikar is a Mass Communication Student at the University of Manipal and enjoys writing.;