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UK Education Terms Explained

UK Terms Relating to School Life:

Uni – university.  The term “college” is not used.  For example, “Are you going to uni next year?”

Reading – studying.  For example, “I’m reading history at Oxford”.  Most often used at Oxford and Cambridge.

Oxbridge – combined term referring to both Oxford and Cambridge.

Course – set of classes or plan of study on a particular subject.  The concept of “major-minor” is not used in the UK.  Instead of asking, “What is your major?”, you’d  say “What’s your course?” or “What’s your degree?”.

Modules – classes. As in, “What modules are you taking?”

First-year, second-year, third-year – “freshman”, “sophomore”, etc., are also terms not used in the UK.

Freshers – students in their first year of uni.

Freshers’ week – orientation and party week held the week before the start of uni.  Usually involves alcohol.

Societies – clubs. More prominent at some unis than others.  Can be academic, social, political, recreational, sporty, or just plain weird.  Wine societies are always popular.

Open day – a day open to prospective students to research courses, departments, and general school life.  Some “open days” coincide with Spring Break week in the US.  Some universities, such as Durham, will invite students with offers to spend a night at their residence halls.

Public schools — fee-based schools that are not run by the government. Essentially private schools in the US. They are “public” in the sense that the schools are open to the public who can afford the fees.

State schools — government funded schools that are free to the public. Considered public schools in the US.

Lectures — formal, large group (up to 200+students) classes. Usually held in large lecture halls. Generally, non-participatory.

Tutorials — intimate, small group meetings. Discussions in detail about readings and lectures.

Seminars — small group discussions (usually less than 30 students). Larger than a tutorial, less formal than lectures. Include student presentations and discussion of study questions.

Formative assessment — a non-graded assessment or feedback to gauge a student’s progress.

Summative assessment — a graded assessment in the form of essays, projects, or final exams.

Russell Group — a group of 24 public universities with a focus on research and academic achievement.  Not all included unis are prestigious and not all prestigious unis are included.

Red brick universities – Specialized schools created during the Industrial Era of the 19th century to meet labor demands such as medicine and engineering.  Often built in the Gothic style with red bricks.  The original universities are: Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, and Sheffield.  Cardiff, Leicester, and Hull were later added in the 60s.

League tables – a ranking of universities by reputation, courses, departments, and overall ranking.

UK Terms Relating to Admissions and Application:

UCAS – Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. System to process university applications in the UK.

Apply or UCAS Apply – name of online application system.

Track or UCAS Track – name of online tracking system after you have applied.

Single-honours degree – degree focused on only one subject.

Joint-honours or combined-honours degree — degree is equally focused on two, or sometimes three, subjects.

Foundation courses or year – preparation courses for non-native English-speaking applicants or for students who need an additional year to catch-up.

Firm choice – your first and binding choice if accepted by the university.

Insurance choice – your second choice if you do not meet the conditions of your firm choice.

Unconditional offer – an offer of acceptance with no conditions.

Conditional offer – an offer of acceptance subject to conditions, usually related to test results such as AP, IB. Common for UK acceptances to be conditional.

A level – an academic qualification in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.  Comprable to AP or IB courses in the US.

Sandwich course — a year for study or work abroad.

Fees – refer to both tuition and fees. 

Point of entry – the starting year of your course.  For example, a “2” means you’d start in year 2 of the course.

CAS – Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies. Certificate that is necessary for a student visa application.

Terms Relating to Accommodations:

Catered, non-catered – accommodations with or without a meal plan.  Most universities offer both options.

En-suite rooms – accommodations with a private adjoining bathroom.

Halls – residence halls.  The term “dormitory” is not used.  Generally, first-year students are guaranteed a place in residence halls. 

Flats – apartments.  An “apartment” in the UK, however, suggests a very posh flat.

Single and twin room – one-person and two-person room.  Common in the UK to have single rooms in residence halls.

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