Here you’ll find an alphabetical list of common expressions and technical terms used across the UK higher education sector.

Scroll down to find a term, or press Crtl + F (Cmd + F) to quickly search and find what you’re looking for.

If you’d like to see a list of terms and acronyms specific to Bloomsbury Institute, take a look at our Internal Glossary.


Abbreviation for Asian, Black, Mixed and other: also referred to elsewhere as BAME (see below).

A comprehensive term referring to how, and how well, higher education providers manage teaching and learning opportunities to help students progress and succeed.

The standards set by degree-awarding bodies for their courses (programmes and modules) and expected for their awards. See also threshold academic standard.

A document, but not a formal certificate, that certifies the results achieved in a final examination (usually broken down at least to module/unit level). See also record of study.

At Bloomsbury Institute we define the academic year as the same period used for HEFCE funding purposes, which is the period between 01 August of one year to 31 July of the next.

Short for ‘Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service’. ACAS is a Crown non-departmental public body of the UK Government. Its purpose is to improve organisations and working life through the promotion and facilitation of strong industrial relations practice. It may do this through a number of media such as arbitration or mediation, although the service is perhaps best known for its collective conciliation function – that is resolving disputes between groups of employees or workers, often represented by a trade union, and their employers.

Short for ‘Association of Chartered Certified Accountants’. ACCA is the global professional accounting body offering the Chartered Certified Accountant qualification. Bloomsbury Institute is an accredited centre, offering exam exemptions to many ACCA courses through our accredited programmes.

Access courses are designed to prepare students who do not have standard entry qualifications for higher education courses. These are sometimes named Foundation year.

Information presented or made available in appropriate formats so that it can be found and understood by all intended audiences.

A process for verifying or approving a higher education programme, or provider, by an authorised external organisation, such as a professional or regulatory body. The accreditation process gives assurance that a programme meets the standards required by a particular profession, or for statutory or regulatory purposes.

Advance HEA sector agency comprising the former Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), Higher Education Academy (HEA), and Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (LFHE).

Checking a process or activity every year to see if it meets expectations for standards and quality.

Short for ‘Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning’. The identification, assessment and formal acknowledgement of learning and achievement that occurred at some time in the past prior to entry to a course of study, and for which the learner was awarded some form of official recognition.

Short for ‘Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning’. The identification, assessment and formal acknowledgement of learning and achievement that occurred at some time in the past prior to entry to a course of study, but not in the context of formal education or training.

Short for ‘Accreditation of Prior Learning’. The identification, assessment and formal acknowledgement of learning and achievement that occurred at some time in the past (perhaps as the result of a previous course, self-directed study, or active experience), which is taken into account when admitting a student to a course of study. Each university will have its own criteria to accept/refuse students on APL basis and normally their decision is final, sometimes with an internal appeal process that can be followed.

Short for Access and Participation Plan.  A plan produced by a provider in the Approved (fee cap) category of the Register.  The plan sets out how the provider will sustain or improve access to its provision for students from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups in higher education, and promote success for those students including retention, attainment and employability.  Plans must be approved by the Director for Fair Access and Participation.

The knowledge, understanding and skills that markers expect a student to display in an assessment task, and which are taken into account in marking the work. These criteria are based on the intended learning outcomes.

The Association of University Administrators (AUA) is the professional body for higher education administrators and managers in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.

A qualification, or academic credit, conferred in formal recognition that a student has achieved the intended learning outcomes and passed the assessments required to meet the academic standards set for a programme or unit of study.

A body which may grant academic awards. Degree awarding bodies are a type of awarding body, but there are many others. Ofqual regulates a number of the UK awarding bodies which cannot grant degrees, although registering with Ofqual is voluntary. If an organisation acts as an awarding body, then it is responsible for the award it grants. This is a lesser commitment than acting as a validating body (see ‘Validation’). See also Degree-awarding body.

An organisation authorised to award a particular qualification, typically an organisation recognised by Ofqual to award Ofqual-regulated qualifications.


Short for ‘Bachelor of Arts’. BAs are awarded to humanities students, these can include subjects like English, Classics, Languages and Philosophy.

A course of academic study leading to a qualification usually over a period of three or four full-time academic years that requires a significant amount of independent study to develop a thorough understanding of a subject. Examples include the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BSc) degrees. To be awarded a bachelor’s degree ‘with honours’, a student achieves the learning outcomes of a larger volume of study.

Abbreviation for Black, Asian, and minority ethnic: also referred to elsewhere as ABMO (see above).

A process through which practices are analysed to provide a standard measurement (‘benchmark’) of effective performance within an organisation (such as a university). Benchmarks are also used to compare performance with other organisations and other sectors.

A method of educating that is delivered by a number of different methods, usually including eLearning techniques, such as online delivery through the web, discussion boards and email, combined with traditional face to face lectures, seminars, and tutorials.

In the late 1990s education ministers in Europe undertook in a joint declaration (the Bologna Declaration) to establish a European area of higher education. It is an initiative to strengthen and develop the European Higher Education Area as a means of ensuring that qualifications are mutually recognised, systems are transparent and staff and students can transfer easily between higher education institutions in Europe, ensuring that their qualifications and skills are transferable. The ongoing work to achieve this is the Bologna Process.

Short for ‘Bachelor of Science’. Sciences are not limited to traditional sciences like Biology and Physics but extend to subjects like Psychology.

Short for ‘Business and Technology Education Council’, these are vocational qualifications awarded by Pearson Education Ltd (Edexcel). There are lots of different sizes and levels of BTEC and they have more of a practical element. Assessed in practical’s and theory units.

An award, usually a sum of money (grant or scholarship) gifted from a university or company to a student. Commonly they are means-tested, but some are based on other criteria such as academic merit. This money is non-repayable (unlike a loan).


Short for ‘Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies’. The CAS is an electronic record that a University produces for the Home Office and it is required for the student’s Student Visa application. The University will produce a CAS and send it to the student, listing the information that has been sent to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) department. Students will need this information to make the Student Visa application, as documents listed need to be presented in original to the local High Commission.

Short for ‘Chartered Institute of Management Accountants’. CIMA is the world’s leading, and largest, professional body of management accountants, which awards Bloomsbury Institute’s accountancy degrees.

Short for ‘Chartered Institute of Legal Executives’. CILEx is the professional association for Chartered Legal Executives, legal practitioner, paralegals and apprentices, regulating its members in the public interest. CILEx is an approved regulator under the Legal Services Act 2007 (the Act) and its operations are monitored and assessed by the Legal Services Board (LSB). Bloomsbury Institute is a CILEx centre, meaning all our Law courses are validated by CILEx.

Clearing is a system operated by UCAS after A level results are published. This system allows students to apply for courses at universities who still have available spaces.

Short for Competition and Markets Authority.  The CMA is a non-ministerial government department that works to promote competition for the benefit of consumers, both within and outside the UK.  Its aim is to make markets, including higher education, work well for consumers, businesses and the economy.

Short for ‘Chartered Management Institute’. The CMI is an awarding body that provides learning resources through their centres (such as Bloomsbury Institute) to all its students, ultimately helping teachers to empower students to expand their management knowledge, gain key skills and assist with increasing employability after graduation.

The CLA is a UK non-profit organisation established to perform collective licensing on behalf of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) and the Publishers Licensing Society (PLS, now Publishers’ Licensing Services). The aim of the CLA is to obtain fair rewards for authors, visual artists and publishers for the copying of their work.

The Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education published by QAA: a set of interrelated documents giving guidance for higher education providers, which formed the core element of the Academic Infrastructure (now superseded by the Quality Code).

A group (of students) who share the same learning experience, for example because they entered the same programme of study at the same university in the same year.

A formal arrangement between a degree-awarding body and another higher education provider, allowing for the latter to provide higher education on behalf of the former, typically leading to an award of credit, or a qualification, from the degree-awarding body. In all such cases, the degree-awarding body remains responsible for ensuring that the Expectations of the Quality Code (for quality assurance purposes, related to the QAA) are met. It can also be a general term for arrangements between two or more institutions or organisations for joint activity to provide higher education or research.

An offer of a place at a university which depends on the student achieving certain grades (for example ABB) or UCAS points.

A judgement by a QAA review team that ‘confidence can reasonably be placed in the soundness of an institution’s current and likely future management of the academic standards of its awards and/or of the quality of the learning opportunities available to students’ (two separate judgements for standards and learning opportunities). Alternatively, the team might express limited confidence or no confidence in these issues.

A core module is a mandatory part of a course.  Students must complete it to complete their award.

A co-requisite module is a module that must be taken during the same semester as another module. The subject content in the two modules is complimentary.

Short for ‘Continuing Professional Development’. A range of short and long training programmes, some of which have an option of accreditation or formal awards, which foster the development of employment- related knowledge, skills and understanding.

CATS are arrangements within institutions which determine student progression towards defined learning outcomes, including formal qualifications, and recognition of these arrangements between institutions to facilitate the transfer of students.

Short for ‘Customer Relationship Management’. CRM is an approach to managing a company’s interaction with current and potential customers. It uses data analysis about customers’ history with a company and to improve business relationships with customers, specifically focusing on customer retention and ultimately driving sales growth. In Higher Education, CRM can be an effective way to manage the relationship with students, alumni, and other stakeholders.

Committee of University Chairs: the representative body for the Chairs of UK universities.


An agreement between the student and the university to delay the time of entry to higher education for a year. This may be due to the students’ decision to take a gap year or for other issues such as medical health.

The right to confer degrees, which is granted by statute, by Royal Charter or by the Privy Council following a recommendation from the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA). Institutions may apply for the right to award foundation degrees, taught degrees and research degrees, and there is a separate application process for each. See also degree-awarding body and university title.

A UK higher education provider (typically a university) with the power to award degrees, conferred by Royal Charter, or under Section 76 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, or under Section 48 of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992, or by Papal Bull, or, since 1999, granted by the Privy Council on advice from QAA (in response to applications for taught degree-awarding powers, research degree-awarding powers or university title).

A digital repository is a mechanism for managing and storing digital content. Repositories can be subject or institutional in their focus. Putting content into an institutional repository enables staff and institutions to manage and preserve it, and therefore derive maximum value from it.

Short for ‘Destinations of Leavers of Higher Education’. Information on the status of graduates (in work, in study, in work and study, unemployed, or other) on a specific date, following their award, that is collected by every higher education institution. The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) provides specified processes and timescales that each institution must work to when collecting and collating this data and for submitting the data to HESA. This includes prescribed questions, categorisation of answers, approved survey methods and reporting procedures.

The Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition is a multi-stakeholder partnership involving the Member States, companies, social partners, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) and educational establishments of the European Union (such as Bloomsbury Institute). It is designed to help meet the high demand for digital skills in Europe, which are essential in today’s digital society and economy.

Discover Uni is jointly owned by the Office for Students, the Department for the Economy Northern Ireland, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Scottish Funding Council.  It provides prospective students with information and guidance on the different options for studying within higher education.  It also allows users to search for and compare information and data for individual undergraduate courses across the UK.

A project usually taken in the final year of a degree course, where the student is required to explore a specific topic in great depth.

A course of study that does not involve face-to-face contact between students and tutors but instead uses technology such as the internet, intranets, broadcast media, CD-ROM and video, or traditional methods of correspondence – learning ‘at a distance’.

Short for ‘Disabled Students’ Allowance’. It is a Government grant in the UK available to help toward meeting the additional studying costs or expenses that students face as a direct result of a disability or specific learning difficulty. They are intended to help disabled students study on an equal basis with other students. Full-time, part-time and postgraduate students all qualify for help. DSAs are paid on top of the standard student finance package and are not means-tested.

The granting of separate awards (and certificates) for the same programme by two degree-awarding bodies who have jointly delivered the programme of study leading to them.

Enquiries relating to the governance, ethos, status, capacity, reputation and general suitability of a potential delivery organisation or support provider to satisfy the requirements of a degree-awarding body for an arrangement to deliver learning opportunities.


Learning that is delivered or supported through the use of technology.

A set of achievements – skills, understandings and personal attributes – that make individuals more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy.

The process by which higher education providers systematically improve the quality of provision and the ways in which students’ learning is supported. It is used as a technical term in the QAA review processes.

The formal procedures that a student must complete or pass through during the admissions stage, after being accepted onto a course and before starting it.

These are the specific qualifications/experience that a student will need to be able to join a degree course. Each course and university will ask for different levels of grade and subjects / number of years’ experience.

Enterprise Education is defined as the process of developing students in a manner that provides them with an enhanced capacity to generate ideas, and the behaviours, attributes, and competencies to make them happen. It extends beyond knowledge acquisition to a wide range of emotional, intellectual, social, cultural and practical behaviours, attributes and competences, and is appropriate to all students. These are all underlying factors that can enhance employability prospects as well as be taken further through Entrepreneurship Education.

Entrepreneurship Education is defined as the application of enterprise behaviours, attributes and competencies into the creation of cultural, social or economic value. This can, but does not exclusively, lead to venture creation.

As defined by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), the Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education is the successful combination of the two activities, becoming the core to a wide reaching and rewarding education for students and for educators when developing their teaching and learning practices. They are also key for impactful research and act as a vehicle for university engagement.

ECU is a registered charity that works to further and support equality and diversity for staff and students in higher education institutions across all four nations of the UK. They provide a central resource of advice and guidance for the sector. ECU is now part of Advance HE.

A system used across Europe for the transfer and accumulation of academic credit.

The expectations developed by the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) for quality assurance in higher education across the European Higher Education Area.


Short for Framework of Higher Education Qualifications.  FHEQ sets out the levels of higher education qualifications, and is illustrated by typical qualifications for that level, for example Higher National Certificates, graduate diplomas, bachelor degrees.  Each level includes a descriptor that sets out the generic outcomes and attributes expected for the award of qualifications at that level.

A programme or module that does not require the student to attend classes or events at particular times and locations. See also distance learning.

An important reference point for higher education providers designed to ensure that awards and qualifications are of a given academic standard.

A higher education programme of study designed to prepare students for a further course for which they do not have the usual entry qualifications. Foundation courses sometimes constitute a preparatory ‘Year 0’ of a degree course. They are not the same as foundation degrees.

A course of academic study leading to a higher education qualification, typically vocational in nature and usually completed over a period of two years. It is located at level 5 in The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A process by which a degree-awarding body agrees to authorise another organisation to deliver (and sometimes assess) part or all of one (or more) of its own approved programmes. Often, the degree- awarding body retains direct responsibility for the programme content, the teaching and assessment strategy, the assessment regime and the quality assurance. Students normally have a direct contractual relationship with the degree-awarding body.

Formal learning that follows compulsory secondary school education (e.g. GCSEs), such as A levels, NVQs and Access to Higher Education courses (e.g. BTECs or Diplomas). Some form of further education is normally required to qualify for entry to higher education.

Also known as ‘Further Education Institutions’ (FEI). Colleges including sixth-form colleges and specialist colleges that provide further education and training for school leavers and adults. Some such colleges also deliver higher education programmes leading to qualifications from other degree-awarding bodies and/or may have powers to award Foundation Degrees.


Stands for ‘General Data Protection Regulation’. Regulation (EU) 2016/679. The GDPR seeks to create a harmonised data protection law framework across the EU and aims to give citizens back the control of their personal data, whilst imposing strict rules on those hosting and ‘processing’ this data, anywhere in the world. It is meant to replace the existing UK Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). The GDPR will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. The government has confirmed that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR.

Graduate Outcomes is the biggest UK annual social survey and captures the perspectives and current status of recent graduates. All graduates who completed a course will be asked to take part in the survey 15 months after they finish their studies.

A sum of money that is never paid back. Special grants to help with the cost of higher education can be received through the Student Loans Company (SLC) and universities.

One of the two representative bodies for Higher Education in the UK (the other is UUK) with whom CLA negotiates the terms and conditions of the HE Licence.


From September 2018 the Register published by the Office for Students (OfS) includes all approved providers of higher education (whether public universities or private providers). Any provider that appears on the Register is referred to as a ‘higher education provider’.

Short for ‘Higher Education Academy’. HEA is the guardian of the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) which sets out the dimensions of practice for teaching in higher education. The UKPSF is a benchmarking tool for those who teach and/or support learning in higher education, providing a standardised mechanism for recognition. HEA enhances teaching quality in higher education institutions, and develops individual careers through teaching resources. See also HEA fellowships. HEA is now part of AdvanceHE.

HEA fellowships align to the UKPSF and are a recognised way of benchmarking teaching experience and excellence. Higher education academics gain fellowship either through undertaking an accredited postgraduate certificate in higher education teaching, or through providing evidence of teaching experience and excellence in a written professional reflection. There are four categories of fellowship:

  • Associate Fellowship (AFHEA): Associate Fellows are usually early career professionals engaging successfully in a limited amount of teaching, using ideas and methods that promote student
  • Fellowship (FHEA): Fellows are experienced and reflective teachers who have familiarity with a wide range of methods and approaches to promote student learning within their discipline, and whose practice is underpinned by strong professional
  • Senior Fellowship (SFHEA): Senior Fellows are highly experienced teachers, familiar with a wide range of methods and approaches to promote student learning within their discipline, whose practice is underpinned by strong professional values. Distinctively, Senior Fellows lead and mentor other colleagues towards teaching excellence, and influence practice and systems to enhance the learning environment for students.
  • Principal Fellowship (PFHEA): Principal Fellows are highly experienced teachers, familiar with a wide range of methods and approaches to promote student learning within their discipline, whose practice is underpinned by strong professional values. Distinctively, Principal Fellows have institutional and/or national impact on teaching and student learning through strategic, scholarly and systemic approaches to learning and teaching.

Stands for ‘Higher Education Funding Council for England’. HEFCE distributes public money for teaching and research to universities and colleges. It creates and sustains the conditions for a world- leading higher education system, promoting high quality education and research within a financially healthy sector.

Short for ‘Higher Education Statistics Agency’. HESA are the expert in UK higher education data and analysis. It collects, processes and publishes data about higher education in the UK, supporting and enhancing the competitive strength of the sector. HESA works with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

An award that is not an academic qualification, but which is used by a degree-awarding body to recognise the achievements or status of a particular individual. The term should not be confused with ‘honours degree’.

The type of bachelor’s degree that is generally awarded in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and is also awarded in Scotland as distinct from ordinary bachelor’s degrees. An honours degree requires more extensive study and achievement than an ordinary degree.


A general term for providers of higher education which are not funded by regular government grants. They can be for-profit or not-for-profit, and of any corporate form. Alternative providers may be eligible to apply to have specific courses designated by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for student support purposes. From September 2018, when the Office for Student’s Register was published, all providers of higher education that are published in the OfS Register will be referred to as ‘higher education providers’.

Independent HE is the UK membership organisation and national representative body for independent providers of higher education, professional training and pathways.

Short for Index of Multiple Deprivation.  The IMD is an official measure of relative deprivation for small areas (or neighbourhoods) in England.  It ranks every small area in England from 1 (most deprived area) to 32,844 (least deprived area).  The IMD is designed to identify aspects of deprivation based on: income deprivation, employment deprivation, education, skills and training deprivation, health deprivation and disability, crime, barriers to housing and services and living environment deprivation.

The ICAEW is the oldest renowned accounting professional body dating back to 1880.  Our partnership with the Institute provides further opportunities for exemptions for our accounting and financial management degree and the professional development of our students.

The activity of identifying, considering, comparing and learning from developing practice internationally and aiming to share and learn from it in a series of themes relevant to higher education.


JISC is a UK not-for-profit company whose role is to support post-16 and higher education, and research, by providing relevant and useful advice, digital resources and network and technology services, while researching and developing new technologies and ways of working.

Joint award

An arrangement under which two or more degree-awarding bodies together provide a programme leading to a single award made jointly by both, or all, participants. A single certificate or document (signed by the competent authorities) attests to successful completion of this jointly delivered programme, replacing the separate institutional or national qualifications.


The Knowledge Quarter is a network of academic, cultural, research, scientific, and media organisations situated within a 1-mile radius of King’s Cross, all committed to the creation and dissemination of knowledge. It includes the British Library, the Aga Khan University, the Guardian and Google’s new HQ in King’s Cross.

Short for ‘Key Performance Indicator’. A performance indicator or key performance indicator (KPI) is a type of performance measurement to evaluate the success of an organisation or of a particular activity (such as projects, programmes, products and other initiatives) in which it engages. It assists the organisation to define and measure progress toward organisational goals and objectives.


The provision made for students’ learning, including planned study, teaching, assessment, academic and personal support, resources (such as libraries and information systems, laboratories or studios).

What a learner is expected to know, understand and/or be able to demonstrate after completing a process of learning.

Level refers to a student’s academic level of study.  Normally, it corresponds to one year of study for full-time students.  A three-year undergraduate degree consists of Levels 4, 5 and 6.


A loan provided by the government through the Student Loans Company (SLC) to help with living costs while at university. This might be used to pay for accommodation, food and textbooks. As any loan, it is expected to be repaid under certain criteria.

A higher education qualification, typically lasting at least one year, characterised by a greater depth of study and specialisation than a bachelor’s programme, normally only taught after completing an undergraduate degree. A master’s offers a chance to specialise in a subject of choosing and is usually taught or researched based. Examples include the Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc) and Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degrees.

Any student who is over 21 years old at the start of their degree course. You can choose to start a course or degree at any time in your life, whether you are 18 or 80.

Different ways of studying, such as full-time, part-time, eLearning or work-based learning.

A self-contained, formally structured unit of study, with a coherent and explicit set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria. Sometimes students have the option to choose their own modules but other times the department might only offer specific topics at a given time.

A statement of the aims/objectives/learning outcomes, content, learning and teaching processes, mode of assessment, and learning resources applicable to a unit of study.


Short for ‘National Academic Recognition Information Centre’. UK NARIC is the designated UK national agency for the recognition and comparison of international qualifications and skills. It performs this official function on behalf of the UK Government. UK NARIC provides vital support to universities, colleges and employers with international recruitment and the processing of international applications for work or study, by providing access to online data banks of international education systems and qualifications, plus online support. UK NARIC also offers worldwide advanced research and consultancy for employers, skills councils, awarding bodies, education authorities and governments.

Short for ‘National Student Survey’. The NSS gathers students’ opinions on the quality of their courses. The purpose of this is to contribute to public accountability, help inform the choices of prospective students and provide data that assists institutions in enhancing the student experience. The NSS has been capturing final-year undergraduate students’ feedback on their course experience since 2005. Every university in the UK takes part, as do many colleges and alternative providers. Response rates are consistently high.

Short for ‘National Union of Students’. It is a student body representing the interests of over seven million students. The NUS campaigns for the welfare and rights of students throughout the UK.


The OfS became the government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the higher education sector in England on1 April 2018. It replaced HEFCE and the Office for Fair Access, and places the interests of students at the heart of its activities.

The OIA is a company that handles students’ complaints against universities within England and Wales. The OIA does not investigate the merits of the original complaint, which must be done by a court. It, however, reviews if the higher education institution followed their own procedures. Its remit is limited to those complaints that have first been taken through the procedures of a higher education institution’s own internal system without reaching a satisfactory conclusion in the view of the complainant. By law, all higher education bodies are required to abide by the rules of the scheme set by OIA.

The OU is a distance learning university. It offers a large range of distance courses and supported learning for students of all ages.

A bachelor’s degree which typically requires a student to achieve the learning outcomes of a smaller volume of study than that expected for a bachelor’s degree with honours.


Arrangements whereby students who have successfully completed a programme at one organisation may be considered on an individual basis for progression either to the beginning or to a more advanced stage of a programme of the degree-awarding body. See also joint award.

A degree-awarding body working with another degree-awarding body where both are exercising their degree awarding powers to offer dual or joint awards.

Help or guidance, usually given on a one-to-one basis, that relates not to academic matters but to the personal and emotional issues that may arise during a student’s higher education experience.

A process of review conducted by people with current or very recent experience of the activity being reviewed (in this case, providing or assessing higher education).

Short for ‘Postgraduate Certificate in Education’. It is a one-year course undertaken by graduates to prepare them for a career in teaching. It is an internationally recognised and a well-established qualification.

Short for ‘Philosopher Doctor’ or ‘Doctor of Philosophy’. Also known as doctorate or doctoral degree. A higher education qualification awarded for a programme of original and largely independent study and research (typically lasting at least three years). It is the highest academic level achievable. Applicants will need at least a 2:1 grade at undergraduate level and will often have a master’s degree.

A planned period of experience outside the institution (for example, in a workplace) to help students to develop particular skills, knowledge or understanding as part of their programme.

A student who has already completed an undergraduate degree and is in the process of studying for a second or third degree (a master or a doctorate).

A module that must be completed before a student is allowed to enrol on a more advanced one.

An independent college that offers UK higher education but is not in receipt of public funding from the higher education funding councils and may be operating for profit or have charitable status. See also alternative provider.

Organisations that set the standards for, and regulate entry into, particular profession(s) and are authorised to accredit, approve or recognise specific programmes leading to the relevant professional qualification(s) – for which they may have a statutory or regulatory responsibility.

An approved course of study that provides a coherent learning experience and normally leads to a qualification. UK higher education programmes must be approved and validated by UK degree- awarding bodies.

A formal process through which a degree-awarding body decides that a programme of study (content, teaching/learning and assessment) is of appropriate standard and quality to lead to one of its qualifications. This applies both to programmes delivered directly by the degree-awarding body and to programmes delivered at delivery organisations.

Published statements about the intended learning outcomes of programmes of study, containing information about teaching and learning methods, support and assessment methods, and how individual units relate to levels of achievement.

Formal progress through an academic programme, meeting key academic requirements.

Certain characteristics – age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (ethnic origin or national identity), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, and sexual orientation – which may require particular consideration in ensuring equal access to educational opportunities for all.


Short for ‘Quality Assurance Agency’. QAA is the independent body that checks on standards and quality in UK higher education. It conducts quality assessment reviews, develops reference points and guidance for providers, and conducts or commissions research on relevant issues. QAA checks how higher education providers maintain their academic standards and quality. It does this through external peer review. Higher education providers require a positive QAA review to remain on the Office for Students’ Register.

A formally recognised academic award, such as a degree, diploma or certificate, granted on successful completion of a programme of study.

One of a series of defined points in a qualifications framework that are numbered in ascending order. Qualifications within the same level share characteristics and require similar achievement. Qualification levels in different frameworks can be compared. Qualification levels are distinct from credit levels.

A formal structure identifying qualification levels in ascending order and stating the requirements for qualifications to be awarded at each one. In UK higher education ‘the Qualifications Frameworks’ refers specifically to the Frameworks for Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies.

The systematic monitoring and evaluation of learning and teaching, and the processes and systems that support them, to make sure that risks and opportunities are effectively managed and that the standards of academic awards meet the quality expectations and that the quality of the student learning experience is being safeguarded and improved.

A shortened term for the UK Quality Code for Higher Education, the UK-wide set of reference points for higher education providers which states the Expectations that all providers are required to meet. It was developed with the higher education community and is owned, maintained and published by QAA.


A week usually half-way through the academic term. Depending on the course, students might not have any lectures during this week. It is a good time for students to prepare for any assessments that they might have to submit.

An organisation recognised by government as being responsible for the regulation or approval of a particular range of issues. See also statutory body.

A higher education qualification at a postgraduate level.

The REF is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. It first took place in 2014. The next exercise will be conducted in 2021. REF is the successor to the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). It is an impact evaluation, defined as ‘an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia’.

A review conducted by QAA for purposes of educational oversight as required by the UK government, which is concerned with taught higher education programmes of study.


A programme of study that includes a significant time – normally a year – spent studying away from the university or college (typically in a work-based setting). See also placement.

An organisation set up through Act of Parliament that has a legal requirement to oversee a particular profession. See also regulatory body.

Short for ‘Student Loans Company’. SLC is a non-profit making government-owned organisation established to provide financial services, in terms of loans and grants, to over one million students annually, in colleges and universities across the four education systems of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The SU is often seen as the heart of a university. The SU is run for students by students who have been elected and voted for. The union is a social hub, campaigns for student rights as well as providing many useful services and being a place to get advice and help.


See degree awarding powers.

The TEF is a new scheme for recognising excellent teaching, in addition to existing national quality requirements for universities, colleges and other higher education providers. It provides information to help prospective students choose where to study. The TEF rates universities as gold, silver or bronze, in order of quality of teaching. The TEF ratings are based on statistics such as dropout rates, student satisfaction survey results and graduate employment rates. Universities are measured across three areas: teaching quality, learning environment, and student outcomes and learning gain.

The minimum acceptable level of achievement that a student must demonstrate to be eligible for an academic award. Threshold academic standards are set out in the national qualifications frameworks and subject benchmark statements.

An organisation that the UK Government trusts to sponsor international students, according to UK Visas and Immigration’s points-based immigration system. Higher education providers must be included on the Office for Student’s Register to be eligible to be a Student Sponsor. Without this status, the provider cannot recruit international students.

See academic transcript.


Short for the ‘Universities and Colleges Admissions Service’. UCAS manages all undergraduate applications to higher education. By logging into UCAS applicants can create, track and accept offers from up to 5 higher education providers. If a higher education provider wants to offer a place to a student they will often do this on the condition that the student achieves certain grades.

If a student has applied to a higher education provider through UCAS but finds themselves without an offer, UCAS Extra is a way to find other vacancies. UCAS Extra takes place from March to June and means that applicants do not have to wait for clearing to find a higher education provider who still has spaces left on their courses. The provider has a short time to consider any applications received through UCAS Extra. If an applicant is rejected, the applicant can carry on applying to a maximum of 3 more higher education providers.

Short for UK Professional Standards Framework. A nationally-recognised framework for benchmarking standards and success for those who teach and/or support learning in higher education.

Short for ‘UK Visas and Immigration’. UKVI is a division of the Home Office responsible for the United Kingdom’s visa system. It was formed in 2013 from the section of the UK Border Agency that had administered the visa system. It makes decisions about who has the right to visit or stay in the country, with a firm emphasis on national security and a culture of customer satisfaction for people who enter legally.

An offer of a place at a university that is not dependent on the student attaining particular grades. Sometimes this is used when students have completed their A levels and decided on a Gap Year.

A student studying their first university degree, usually a BA or BSc.

The entitlement of an institution to call itself a university.

Short for ‘Universities UK’. One of the two representative bodies for Higher Education in the UK (the other is GuildHE) with whom CLA negotiates the terms and conditions of the HE Licence.


A term used by some degree-awarding bodies to mean programme approval.

Short for ‘Virtual Learning Environment’. An intranet or password-only interactive website giving access to learning opportunities electronically. These might include such resources as course handbooks, information and reading lists; blogs, message boards and forums; recorded lectures; and/or facilities for online seminars (webinars).

A work-based award, achieved through assessment and training.


Increasing the involvement in higher education of people from a wider range of backgrounds.

Learning that takes place, in part or as a whole, in the context of employment. See also placement.