Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

University jargon buster

university lecture theatreConfused by all the terms thrown around about university life? Check out this list to understand university jargon.


UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) processes most of the applications to higher education. UCAS will take your application, distribute it to the universities you have chosen, adn inform you about any offers you receive.

Halls of residence

'Hallls of residence' can mean two slightly different things. Normally, it means accommodation provided for students by their university. However, it's increasingly common for private companies to run student halls as well.

Either way, the basic structure will be similar: you'll normally have a room of your own, sometimes with an en-suite, as well as shared facilities like kitchens. Depending on the hall, you might get a game room, a study lounge, or other bonuses.

The details of your contract are likely to be different between university-run halls and private halls. Rent will also vary between different halls, depending on who is running them and what facilities they have - but don't assume that privately-run halls will necessarily be more expensive, as this itn's always the case.

Freshers’ week

The first week of your first year at university, before teaching starts. Freshers’ week is designed to help first-year students jump into university life by meeting their fellow students and getting to know the university. Count on concerts, club fairs, social outings, and more. It’s also a good time to take care of any business (bank accounts, paying fees, etc.) before the course work piles up.

Student services

These are services provided by the university to help students. They include financial services, counselling, career guidance, learning difference support – you name the problem, and the university just might have the answer.

Student union

A student union is an organization run by students to represent their interests. They make students' voices heard when the university is making decisions and can help if you have a problem with your university. They also run wider political campaigns.

Student unions also contribute to the social side of university life. They provide funds for clubs and societies, and organize events like

Clubs and societies

Most universities have a huge range of societies, including sports teams, volunteering societies, drama groups on lots more. If you have a hobby or interest and you want to find likeminded students, there's almost certainly a society for you - and if not, you can start one. Alternatively, looking around the available societies can be a great way to discover new interests.

University campus

A campus is the land a university is built on. The word is normally used when talking about universities where most of the buildings are a single site, known as 'campus universities'. At other universities, the buildings are mixed in with the rest of the city so there isn't a distinct campus.

Some universities have more than one campus. Sometimes this is because the university is split across two areas in the same region, but in other cases a university will open a campus somewhere completely different - for example,  the University of Sunderland has a campus in London.


If you’re sitting in a room full of people – sometimes more than 100 of them – and listening to a professor talk, you’re in a lecture. You might be able to ask questions, but you’ll generally need to take notes.


If you find yourself in a smaller group having an open discussion, chances are you’re in a seminar. Here, you’ll need your wits about you and you’ll need to have done your background reading so that you can join discussions.


A lecturer is both a teacher and a researcher. This position is usually filled by academics in their early years of teaching. They will usually guide students through the research process.

Personal tutor

A personal tutor is a member of the academic staff who can give you support on a broad range of issues, both academic and life-related. They will often come from the same academic department that you study in. Talk to your personal tutor for advice on courses, career paths, life issues, and other issues – if they don’t know the answer, they should know who to contact.

Lecture theatre

Lectures usually take place in lecture theatres. They seat a large number of students, and a lecturer usually takes the lead at the front of the room. Back in the day, lecturers used chalkboards; now, they might use a fancy new projector screen. Be patient if they aren’t familiar with the technology; even better, help them out to make yourself known.

Reading week

This is usually a break halfway through each university term when lectures and seminars don’t take place. Don’t be tempted to put your feet up for the entire week. Reading week can be a good chance to catch up on background reading or get a head start on essays. You could also use this time to get some work experience.


A qualification awareded by a university. There are several kinds of degrees:

Bachelor’s degree

A university gives students who have completed their undergraduate study a Bachelor’s degree. The most common Bachelor’s degrees are the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Science (BSc) degrees, but some courses may lead to more specific titles, such as Bachelor of Engineering (BEng).

After getting your Bachelor’s degree, you can keep studying and get further degrees, including:

Master’s degree

A Master’s degree shows that a student has developed expertise in their subject and that they can think critically and independently. Some university programs may give these to undergraduate students as a first degree; at other schools, the Masters is given for postgraduate study, sometimes for as little as one year.


A PhD is the highest degree you can receive, and it is usuallyrequired if you want to do research or teach at a university. The course of study usually takes an additional three years after getting your Masters, though some programs do not require a Masters for admission. By the time you get a PhD, you may have been at university for six, seven, or eight years – so make sure you study what you enjoy!

Related links