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Our A-Z guide to some of the terms you're likely to hear when applying for higher education.



Graduates and former students; there is a thriving Alumni Relations Office at Nottingham which will help you keep in touch with the University and your friends after graduation. Find out more on the Alumni website.

Bachelors degrees

These are first degrees which usually last for three years (if you study full-time), or four years with a year in industry or study abroad. This includes: BA (Hons); BArch (Hons); BEng (Hons); BMid (Hons); BMBS; BSc (Hons); BVM BVS.

Bachelor degrees can also be studied part-time over a longer period.


An amount of money that the University gives to eligible students that doesn't need to be paid back.


A campus-based university is where the majority of halls of residence, libraries, teaching buildings and other facilities, are located in the same place.


In catered accommodation all of your meals are provided for you and paid for as part of your hall fees.


The process by which course vacancies are matched to students with no offers after exam results are released, in July and August. Nottingham does not accept candidates through Clearing for Medicine. See our Clearing webpages for Clearing applications to Nottingham.

Combined offer  

A combined offer is made up of more than one part. For example, you may be required to achieve certain grades and present a portfolio of your work. A university will usually accept you provided you meet all parts of the offer.   

Conditional offer 

Receiving a conditional offer means that a university will accept you provided you meet certain requirements, requirements, which usually means achieving certain grades or tariff points.


Confirmation is when the conditional offers that you accepted either become unconditional or are declined by the university. This happens when the results of your exams or other qualifications are published.


Each module you study will be worth a certain number of credits. To obtain a degree from the University of Nottingham you must pass 360 credits worth of modules. Students normally take 60 credits in each semester (120 per academic year). 

Deferred entry
(gap year)

This is an option to delay the start of your studies for the following year. For deferred entry, you apply through UCAS, but you should check with the academic school concerned before you apply.


Most universities break down different subject areas into departments, such as the Department of History or the Department of Architecture. Each department is usually part of a School, which is a grouping of related departments.


A dissertation is a written report based on in-depth research into an area of your course that is of particular interest to you. Many courses offer a dissertation module in the final year.

Distance learning

A method of study that allows the student to complete their course remotely, without having to attend lectures or seminars. Some courses may require the student to attend intense study sessions on campus, for example a summer school. Others require no contact time at all.

Doctoral Training Centres

The term Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) covers a range of research council funded initiatives including Centres for Doctoral Training, Doctoral Training Partnerships and Industrial Doctorate Centres.

They provide the opportunity for excellent students to undertake a fully funded PhD or EngD alongside intensive research training with the aim of producing the next generation of research leaders. Nottingham leads on or is involved in over 10 DTCs.


Each school belongs to a faculty – a grouping of schools or departments specialising in complementary disciplines. There are five faculties at Nottingham: Arts, Engineering, Medicine and Health Sciences, Science, and Social Sciences.

Firm choice

The offer of a place from a university that you accept as your first choice.

Foundation course

A foundation course provides an entry route into degree-level study for students whose qualifications do not allow immediate admission.


A fresher is a student who has just started studying at university. Technically, the term applies for the whole of your first year but you are only likely to hear it used during the first few weeks. 

Freshers' Week 

A period of time at the beginning of the academic year during which a variety of events are held to welcome new students. 


Registered full-time students usually take three or four years to complete a degree course and follow the semester-based teaching pattern of the University.


GAMSAT is the national admissions test for Graduate Entry Medicine and is used to assist in the selection of students to participate in the graduate-entry programmes. 

Graduate School 

The Graduate School is a dedicated facility for postgraduates and early career researchers.

It runs the Researcher Development Programme, organises placements, advises on postgraduate funding and coordinates some aspects of postgraduate life.


A student who is about to, but has not yet, graduated.


A person who has been awarded a degree.


A ceremony at which degrees are conferred either in person or, if you do not attend, in absentia.

Home students

In general terms, a home student is a student with unrestricted right of residence in the UK who has been in this country for purposes other than full-time education for three years prior to admission to the University.

Insurance choice

The offer of a place from a university that you accept as your second choice. It is usually a back-up offer with lower grade requirements than your firm choice.

If you don't meet the requirements of your firm choice but you do meet those of your insurance choice, you will be able to join this course.

Intercalated PhD 

Some medical students spend one or two additional years at medical school (lengthening a five year course to six or seven years) studying for an intercalated degree.

This is an extra degree awarded in addition to their medical degrees, giving the student the opportunity to gain an extra qualification, and aids students' research and individual study skills. 

International Baccalaureate 

The International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB) is an internationally recognised qualification.

At the University of Nottingham, we will make IB students an offer equivalent to that made to A level students. 

International students

This term usually refers to students classified as overseas for fee purposes. In some cases, international students will be in the UK but their permanent area of residency will be outside the UK. 

Joint honours 

A joint honours degree is divided equally between two subjects; for example, physics and philosophy. 


Lectures usually last an hour and are a useful way of delivering information to a large number of people. 


The LNAT is the national admissions test for Law and is used to assess a candidate's potential for law degree studies.


Usually studied over one year full-time, the Master of Arts (MA), the Master of Science (MSc) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) are taught masters courses. 


Some honours courses allow for a major subject to be combined with a minor option; for example, Electrical and Electronic Engineering with Management Studies, where electrical and electronic engineering is the major subject and management studies the minor option.


Usually studied over one year full-time, a masters degree is a taught higher level academic degree that demonstrates a mastery or high level of knowledge of a specific field of study. 

Mature students 

A mature student is anyone aged 21 or over when they start a university course. 

Modular course

Our degree courses have a modular structure. A module is a self-contained unit of study either lasting one semester or one year  and is assessed individually on completion. The successful completion of a module will award credits towards your degree. Most degree courses have a certain number of core (compulsory) modules and a choice of optional modules.  


Usually studied over one year full-time, an MRes is a masters level research degree that is achieved through personal research to gain a high level of knowledge in a specific field of study.  MRes students will also take a research training programme and may take also taught modules relevant to their research topic. 

Part-catered accommodation 

Part-catered accommodation means that you will receive one catered meal per day during the week, usually an evening meal, with facilities to prepare your own meals at other times. 


Part-time students can take a maximum of seven years to complete some first degrees, following an approved course of study, usually studying alongside full-time students. 

PhD (or doctorate)

The highest postgraduate degree awarded that you can apply to study at universities in the UK. PhD candidates are normally required to submit a thesis or dissertation consisting of sufficient original material to be deemed publishable.


An individual who has received a PhD (or equivalent) and is engaged in a temporary and defined period of mentored advanced training to enhance the professional skills and research independence needed to pursue his or her chosen career path.

Postgraduate Applicants' Portal

A website where prospective postgraduates can apply to the University of Nottingham. The whole application process is carried out on the portal so the student can track the progress of their application and accept their offer.

Postgraduate student

Someone who has already got one degree and is undertaking further study or research for a higher degree such as a masters degree (for example an MA or MSc) or a doctorate (PhD).


Nottingham is a research-led University which means academics are actively involved in research that is changing the world. Research students work with academics either on existing projects or their own projects.

Research Councils (AHRC, EPSRC etc)

The UK Research Councils are publicly funded agencies responsible for coordinating and funding particular areas of research, including the arts, humanities, all areas of science, and engineering.

Research/PhD proposal

Prior to embarking on study, a prospective PhD student usually has to submit a research proposal. This is an overview of what their research will cover, where it fits within the field and how it will further knowledge. The proposal can also be a useful tool to help secure funding.


A grant or payment made to support a student's education, awarded on the basis of academic or other achievement. 


A school is a grouping of similar departments. For example, the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies may consist of the departments of French and Francophone Studies, German Studies, Russian and Slavonic Studies and Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies plus others.

Self-catered accommodation 

In self-catered accommodation you are responsible for your own meals. You'll share a kitchen with other students and have the facilities you will need to cook your own food. 


Although the University still has a three-term structure –  autumn, spring and summer – the academic year is divided into two semesters. These are self-contained periods of teaching and assessment of around 14 to 16 weeks. 


These are similar to tutorials but usually involve larger numbers of students who meet with the tutor to discuss work presented by individuals or groups of students. 

Single honours 

Students follow courses related to one subject. There may be scope for taking modules in other subjects, but the majority will be taken in the “home” school. 


Stipends are paid to postgraduate research students, usually by a research council, to cover their living costs. The national minimum stipends are agreed each year by all the research councils. For students funded through doctoral training centres, universities can choose to increase the student stipend above the minimum payment. 

Students' Union 

Students' Unions are generally run by students and exist to improve students' experience of university. They represent students' views on important issues, provide welfare services and entertainment/social services such as clubs and societies. Many also run shops, catering outlets and bars.

Study abroad 

The opportunity to study at an overseas institution, in Europe or internationally, for a period of your degree. This is usually for a semester or a year, depending on your course.


Research students usually have at least two supervisors. They are experts in their area of study who can help provide guidance and advice on the direction and focus of the student’s research.


A substantial piece of work submitted, usually at the end of a PhD, presenting the author's research and findings.

Tuition fee loan 

A loan provided by the Student Loans Company to pay for you tuition fees (available to UK and EU students only). The loan is paid directly to your university or college. You have to start paying the loan back once you have graduated and are earning a wage over the repayment threshold. For more information, please visit Student Finance England.

Tuition fees

These are fees that are payable when a student begins to study at a University. They generally include registration, tuition, initial examination, graduation and membership of the University Association. The fee also includes membership of the Students' Union. For more information, please visit our tuition fees page.


Students are assigned to tutorial groups at the beginning of the academic year. Depending on the subjects studied, tutorials are held once or twice every fortnight. Tutorials give students the opportunity to discuss work assignments and academic progress in small groups.


The University and Colleges Admissions Service is  the organisation responsible for managing applications to higher education courses in the UK. 

UCAS  Extra 

If you have not received any offers from universities or have declined any offers you have received, you will be eligible for UCAS Extra. This means you can apply for any courses that still have vacancies – just remember that you can only apply for one course at a time. 

Unconditional offer 

If you receive an unconditional offer, it literally means that you have a place on the course if you want it. This usually happens if you have already taken some or all of your qualifications when you apply.

Undergraduate Applicants' Portal 

If you have received an offer from the University of Nottingham, you will be able to access the applicants' portal. Through this, you can apply for accommodation and access useful information. Before you arrive at university to begin your course, you must register online through the portal.

Undergraduate student 

Someone who is studying for, but has not yet completed, a bachelors degree or undergraduate masters degree.

Undergraduate masters-level degrees 

These courses usually take four years to complete and enable you to gain a masters-level qualification such as MEng, MPharm and MSci. These programmes are sometimes called integrated masters programmes because they have integrated both undergraduate and postgraduate level study.


The UK Clinical Aptitude Test is a national admissions test that is used in the selection process for the medicine course.

Viva Voce (or Viva)

An oral examination where a research student is asked to discuss and defend their submitted thesis.


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