explanation of terms
Helpful terms and phrases
If you are new to the world of universities and higher education here are some terms and phrases you may find useful.
- ABSTUDY is an Australian Government scheme that provides a means-tested living allowance and other supplementary benefits to eligible Indigenous Australian secondary and tertiary students.
- academic merit
- A broad term used to describe a person's educational achievements at school or university. Often used as part of the selection criteria in scholarship and enrolment application processes.
- Alternative entry program
- Also known as Alternative Entry Programs, Alternative Entry Schemes are pathways into university for students who did not gain a place in their desired university course through their ATAR, or who have been away from study for a while and therefore do not have an ATAR. Other criteria such as academic or athletic performance as well as referee reports may be taken into account.
- Associate diploma
- A program of study, usually shorter in length than a Bachelor's degree, available from tertiary institutions.
- Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR)
- The ATAR is a rank that allows the comparison of students who have completed different combinations of year 12 (or equivalent) courses. The ATAR is calculated for use by universities to rank and select school leavers for admission to university courses. It is important to note that ATARs quoted refer to entry to courses for the previous year and ATARs are calculated annually. The ATAR that gained you entry into a course in one year may differ to the ATAR required in subsequent years.(Information courtesy www.uac.edu.au)
- An income-support scheme, provided by Centrelink, for full-time students aged 25 years and over.
- award course
- A program of study leading to the award of a degree, Diploma or Certificate. See 'course'.
- award or degree
- The title of the course on completion, for example, Bachelor of Science.
- award (or prize)
- Usually a monetary grant or other prize (such as a medal), awarded for achievement. Generally no application is required; those eligible will be notified if they have been selected. The terms 'award' or 'prize' can sometimes be used interchangeably with 'scholarship'.
- Bachelor's degree
- A Bachelor's degree is a type of undergraduate degree requiring three or more years of full-time or equivalent part-time study. Most Bachelor's degrees are completed at a university.
- bridging course
- Usually a short intensive course designed to assist students in meeting university entry requirements and/or preparing them for university study.
- Often used interchangeably with 'scholarship', the term can be used to describe financial support directed at equity groups.
- Similar to an internship, where the recipient undertakes undergraduate study while receiving on-the-job experience from a business or government department. A cadetship usually involves payment to the recipient to cover university and living costs by way of a salary. The duration of a cadetship varies between organisations. See also 'internship'.
- The physical location where a program of study is delivered.
- census date
- The closing date for course enrolment and related applications (such as HELP Loans) set by the tertiary institution.
- A government agency that delivers a range of Commonwealth services to the Australian community, including income-support for students, job seekers and people with disabilities.
- Commonwealth Supported Place
- Previously known as a HECS place. Students do not pay the full cost of the educational program; rather, the Australian Government pays part of their education costs and loans them the other half. See also 'student contribution amount' and 'HECS-HELP Loan'.
- An approved program of study leading to an accredited higher education award.
- credit points (cp)
- The numerical value attached to each course unit. The value of each unit varies across disciplines, courses and universities. See 'unit'.
- The set of courses, coursework, and content offered at a university or other tertiary institution.
- curriculum vitae (CV)
- A summary of your academic and work history. Also known as a resumé (pronounced rez-you-may).
- cut-off score
- The lowest ATAR score required for entry into a particular degree program. For example, if the cut-off score is 60 and you receive 59 or below you are usually not eligible for entry into the program. It is important to note, this cut-off score will change from year to year.
- The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR)
- The Commonwealth Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations is the leading government agency in providing national leadership in education and workplace training, transition to work and conditions and values in the workplace.
- An award conferred by a university confirming that the student has completed a course of study.
- A level of award shorter in length than the award of a degree, available from tertiary institutions for certain professions and career fields.
- distance education
- Methods of tuition that do not use face-to-face interactions between students and teachers (for example, tuition by correspondence, web-based delivery or 'schools of the air'). The degree is usually offered through the provision of printed material to the student and these units may include an online component in addition to the printed material. See also 'online study'.
- Most undergraduate programs are required to have at least one elective unit, which is a unit freely chosen by the student from a list of options provided by the university. The student may enrol in an elective, provided any course prerequisites are met. See also 'prerequisite'.
- eligibility criteria
- Refers to the personal qualities, attributes or qualifications a person must have in order to be considered for a particular scholarship, bursary, award or prize.
- A type of registration where students formally record the units/courses they are undertaking at their particular institution or university.
- equity scholarship
- A type of scholarship designed to assist people who have experienced some form of disadvantage, including financial hardship. Being an Indigenous Australian is usually included as one of the equity categories.
- equivalent full-time study load (EFTSL)
- The measure used by DEEWR to determine a student's study load. In accordance with DEEWR requirements, a university or other institution sets an EFTSL value for each unit of study it offers. The annual full-time study load varies between universities. See also 'credit points'.
- The section of a university dealing with a particular subject area, for example, the Faculty of Science.
- An interest-free loan available from the Commonwealth Government for full-fee paying students, to cover all or part of their tuition costs. Recipients start repaying the loan when their taxable income reaches a certain minimum level.
- foundation course/program
- A foundation course or program develops the basic skills and understanding that a student will need for future study at university. Foundation courses and programs usually teach students what to expect in lectures, tutorials, seminars and workshops, how to write reports and essays and how to make oral presentations.
- full-time student
- A full-time student is a student undertaking at least 75% of a full-time load in an academic program. See also 'EFTSL'.
- Grade Point Average (GPA)
- A Grade Point Average is the calculation of a student's average performance over a specified period, such as an academic year, or over the duration of a program. The calculation is based on an average of a student's results.
- An award selected on merit, including but not limited to academic merit, to assist a student undertaking a designated component of a program, (such as a student placement or international exchange). A grant may also assist with the initial costs of commencing university study. A grant is a one-off payment and may take the form of monetary assistance or a reduction in specified costs such as tuition fees.
- A loan scheme, offered by the Australian Government, that allows students to obtain an interest-free loan to cover the debt incurred by university fees (also known as 'student contribution amount'). Recipients start repaying the loan when their taxable income reaches a certain minimum level. A HECS-HELP Loan is only available to a student in a Commonwealth Supported Place. See also See also 'Commonwealth Supported Place' and 'HELP'.
- higher education
- Usually refers to education beyond secondary school such as undergraduate and postgraduate studies. See also 'undergraduate', 'postgraduate' and 'tertiary education'.
- Higher Education Contribution Scheme
- The name referring to the old set of student loan programs now known as 'HELP'.
- Higher Education Loan Program (HELP)
- HELP is a set of loan programs offered by the Australian Government to Australian citizens and permanent humanitarian visa holders who apply for monetary support towards their studies. These include HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP, OS-HELP and VET FEEHELP. See also 'HECS-HELP Loan' and 'FEE-HELP'.
- higher education provider
- Universities (both private and public) and other higher education institutions (usually private) and TAFE.
- Bachelor's degree courses may be offered at a Pass or Honours level. Completion of Honours may require additional study or be awarded to the top performing students undertaking Pass level degrees. Additional Honours work may include research methodology and a thesis. Honours study is regarded as being at the undergraduate (rather than the postgraduate) level.
- Indigenous Higher Education Units (IHEUs)
- Also known as Indigenous academic support units, Indigenous Higher Education Units (IHEUs) are located in universities around Australia. These units provide support to Indigenous students and their intentions are to further Indigenous academic studies, create networks of Indigenous students and academics and provide an Indigenous presence on university campuses.
- A program designed to provide practical experience in an occupation or profession. Course credit may be available on completion of an internship. Internships may be paid or unpaid. The duration of internships varies. See also 'cadetship'.
- mature aged student
- A tertiary student, aged 21 years or over, enrolled on the basis of academic merit and experience, who has not applied as a school leaver. (Year 12 student applicants usually enrol on the basis of their ATAR). See also 'ATAR'.
- At university, a mentor is often a current student in the same or similar course as you. Mentors are able to provide practical advice and information related to university and your course material. They help you transition into university and aim to assist you in succeeding in your first semester. A mentor can also be someone in a 'higher' position (such as a tutor) or a person outside the university (such as an ex student) who can support and encourage you while you study. Mentor support may also be offered in the workplace.
- mode of study
- Describes how and where a course or academic program is delivered. There are three modes of study. 'External mode' is often referred to as distance education. Students receive program materials and submit assignments by mail or online, and do not attend a campus. 'Internal mode' is where students attend lectures and tutorials at one or more campuses. 'Mixed mode' is a combination of internal and external modes of study, where at least one course is undertaken in internal mode, and at least one course is undertaken in external mode.
- National Priorities area/band
- A National Priority area or band is where the Australian Government has identified a national shortage or need in a discipline. Additional assistance is curently offered, to students who choose courses in National Priority areas/bands, either through additional places at tertiary institutions, increasing Commonwealth contributions, and/or capping or reducing the maximum student contribution amounts for a Commonwealth Supported Place.
- online course/study
- Methods of tuition offered principally through the provision over the internet of
online lectures and material to the student. See also 'distance education'.
- orientation program
- A day or days designed to introduce new students to the university and its staff.
Orientation provides an opportunity to ask questions, meet other students and
become familiar with what and where you will be studying. It is a chance to
become informed and prepare early for your course.
- Overall Position (OP)
- The Queensland version of an ATAR. An OP is calculated and used similarly to an ATAR and indicates an internal Queensland year 12 student's statewide rank order position from 1-25 based on overall achievement compared to other OP-eligible students.
- part-time student
- A student who undertakes a load of less than half the equivalent full-time study load (EFTSL). For example, in a course with the standard annual credit point load of 120 credit points, a part-time student would undertake less than 60 credit points per year. See also 'credit point', and 'EFTSL'.
- postgraduate course/degree
- A postgraduate program is an advanced level academic program which is normally
available only to a person who holds a Bachelor's degree. Postgraduate courses may
be offered either by coursework (usually involving attending classes and submitting
assessments) or by research (usually involving a thesis submitted at the completion of
the degree program).
- prerequisite course/unit
- A prerequisite is a course or unit or requirement which must be successfully
completed prior to undertaking a more advanced course or unit.
- See 'award'.
- A general term used to describe any accredited higher education course or degree.
- Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC)
- The Queensland body that processes applications for entry into most undergraduate courses at Queensland universities.
- A person who has known the student/applicant for a considerable period (usually a few years) and who can provide a statement as to the suitability of the applicant for the position/scholarship. The referee may be an employer, mentor, teacher or person who can objectively evaluate the student/applicant's work and/or other relevant activities and achievements.
- See 'curriculum vitae (CV)'.
- South Australian Tertiary Admissions Centre (SATAC)
- SATAC processes and assesses applications on behalf of TAFE SA, all South Australian universities and Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory. SATAC also administers the Special Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT) for special entry program applicants. See 'Special Entry applicant' and 'STAT'.
- A grant in the form of money or payment towards the costs associated with university study (such as fees, accommodation, books and computer equipment), awarded to assist and encourage students to complete their studies. Usually awarded through a competitive application process on the basis of equity and/or academic merit.
- In most instances, the university year is broken into two halves, each half is referred to as a 'semester'. Semester one usually ends around June and semester two usually ends in November.
- selection criteria
- Refers to the factors, personal qualities, interests and achievements that will be considered as a basis for selecting the recipient of the scholarship, bursary, prize or award. See also 'scholarship' and 'bursary'.
- Special Entry applicant
- A person who does not meet the entry requirements for a particular academic program. The applicant may be admitted to the program based on the results of a test or assessment.
- Special Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT)
- A series of tests designed to assess a range of competencies commonly considered important for success in tertiary study. STAT assesses the ability to understand and analyse material and to think critically about issues, rather than testing knowledge of a specific academic subject or area.
- student contribution amount
- The tuition fees that a Commonwealth supported student must pay towards the cost of their education. See also 'CSP' and 'HECS-HELP Loan'.
- Technical and Further Education (TAFE) refers to Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers. Courses offered at TAFE provide students with practical skills which are transferable to the workplace. Usually referred to as 'TAFE'.
- tertiary education
- Also referred to as 'higher education' or 'post-secondary education', tertiary education is next the levelm'up' following the successful completion of secondary school.
- tertiary education institution
- A recognised higher education institution such as a university, TAFE or private education provider.
- Tertiary Institutions Service Centre (TISC)
- The Western Australian body that processes applications for entry into university courses in Western Australia.
- A tutorial is where a small group of students discuss the reading material and ideas of the course with their tutors for one to two hours. Attendance at tutorials is usually compulsory.
- Universities Admissions Centre (UAC)
- The body that processes applications for entry into most undergraduate courses in New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory universities.
- Universities Admissions Index (UAI)
- The former NSW school leaver ranking scheme for entry into tertiary institutions. This was superseded by the new national scheme in 2009, see 'ATAR'.
- A university student who has not yet received a degree.
- undergraduate course/degree/program
- An undergraduate program is an academic program of study leading to a Bachelor's degree.
- A class or set of classes that run over a teaching period and provide instruction on a particular subject matter. A unit generally has three or four contact hours per week.
- A tertiary institution of higher education and research, which grants academic awards in a variety of subjects.
- Vocational Education and Training (VET)
- Vocational education and training provides skills and knowledge for work through a national training system. The system consists of a network of eight state and territory governments, the Australian Government, along with industry, public and private training providers that work together to provide nationally consistent training across Australia.
- Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC)
- The Victorian body that processes applications for entry into university courses in Victoria.
- withdrawal date
- The withdrawal date is the last day on which a student can withdraw from a course and have it recorded as 'withdrawn' (W) on their academic record. This means that the student will not receive a fail grade for the subject. A 'W' notation does not contribute towards the calculation of a student's grade point average (GPA). It is also the date on which HECS-HELP fees are attributed to the student. This may also be known as the 'census date'.