This is a guide to key terms used in UK education. Click on the letters below or scroll to find what you're looking for. For more information, please see Your study options.
A-level (Advanced level) and AS-level (Advanced Supplementary level): Qualifications studied over two years by students in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, and most widely accepted for entry to higher education in the UK. AS-level exams are taken at the end of the first year (called lower sixth or Year 12) and A-levels at the end of the second (called upper sixth or Year 13). See Further education
Academic: As well as its general meaning ('relating to education') the term also describes subjects which focus on theory, such as pure science and humanities, in contrast to more career-focused (vocational) courses.
Access course: A course aimed at students (often older students returning to education after a period in work), who do not yet meet the requirements to enter college or university.
Accredited: Describes institutions or courses that have been approved by an official body. (For example, Accreditation UK, a British Council and English UK scheme which offers an accreditation for English language schools. See Choosing a reputable English language centre).
Admission: Acceptance to a school, college or university.
Alumni (singular: alumnus): Former pupils or students of an academic institution. Most schools, colleges and universities have an ‘alumni association’ or society, which stay in touch with former students through newsletters and events.
Applied: A term often used to indicate that a qualification has a practical rather than theoretical focus – for example, courses in ‘applied science’ focus on practical experiments and science in the workplace.
Baccalaureate: See International Baccalaureate (IB). The Welsh Baccalaureate is a version of the IB programme tailored to pupils in Wales. Find out more in Education for students aged 16 and under
Bachelor’s degree: The most common higher education qualification in the UK, at undergraduate level. It is a three- or four-year course, where graduates may obtain a BA (Bachelor of Arts), BSc (Bachelor of Science), BEd (Bachelor of Education) or BEng (Bachelor of Engineering) depending on their subject of study. See Higher education – Courses and qualifications
BTECs (Business and Technology Education Council): EdExcel’s BTEC qualifications are one- or two-year courses in career-related subjects such as engineering, art and design, agriculture, and health and social care. They are ideal for students hoping to progress to a career at supervisory or technician level. See Further education
Bursary: An amount of financial aid for students to fund their studies. See Scholarships and financial support
Campus: The land owned by a university or college on which all or most of its facilities are located. A campus university often has accommodation, shops and catering in the same area as its teaching facilities.
CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies): A document issued by your chosen school, college or university, which may be used in your application for a student visa.
Chancellor: The head of a university or college, in name only – it is an honorary position. The Vice-Chancellor is the head of the university, responsible for its day-to-day running.
Civic university: Civic (or non-campus) universities are located in and around a town or city. Academic departments will be spread within the city’s commercial and residential areas.
Clearing: Operated by UCAS, this is the central system that allows students who don’t yet have a place at a UK higher education institution to apply to those that still have vacancies – students can apply between July and September for courses starting the same year. Find out more in the UCAS guide to Clearing.
Co-educational: Where boys and girls are educated together. At boarding schools, classes are often co-educational (or co-ed), but accommodation is separate.
College: An institution for education at a level between school and university – for example, a sixth-form college for A-levels, or a college of technology that offers vocational qualifications (see Further education). Some universities also use the term 'college' to refer to different institutions within a group, even where they only offer higher education. This is called a collegiate university, and the main examples are Oxford, Cambridge and Durham.
Combined degree: See Joint degree
Common entrance exam: An examination often taken by students hoping to enter independent schools in the UK.
Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE): A single qualification that is equivalent to two years of degree-level study. They tend to focus on the social sciences, nursing, health and education. See Higher education – Courses and qualifications and Shorter undergraduate courses