University terminology

There are many confusing terms used in the world of Higher Education, our jargon buster helps explain some of the commonly used words.

Jargon buster


Universities and Colleges Admissions Service is the organisation that handles nearly all university applications. The application process (including choices and personal statements) is all done online via


Higher Education.


Higher Education Institution.

Tariff Points

The UCAS Tariff is a means of allocating points to post-16 qualifications used for entry to higher education.

Entry Requirements

These are requirements that a university makes to a student which they need to meet in order to be accepted onto their chosen course at that university.


Placements are a year out of university study where students work in industry to gain valuable work experience. Students sometimes get paid a salary for this, they are usually optional but for some courses they are compulsory.


If you've exceeded you offer conditions for your Firm choice you can approach alternative institutions to explore options to study there – you cans till hold your original confirmed place.


The UCAS online application system.


Your school/college will give you a buzzword to link your application to them. It's a word you add to your application when you register (unless you apply independently).


If you don't get a place on a course – whether you didn't receive offers, declined your offers or didn't get the grades you needed – Clearing allows you to apply for courses that still have vacancies.

Conditional offer

An offer of a place on a course with conditions – the place is yours if you meet the conditions – often results from qualifications you are taking.


If you would like to take a gap year between applying and starting your course.

Firm choice

An offer you accept as your first choice.

Insurance choice

An offer you accept as your second choice – just in case you don't meet the conditions of your firm choice.

Personal ID

A 10-digit number you get when you register on UCAS Apply.

Personal statement

A piece of text to show why you're applying and why you'd be a great student.


A recommendation on your application form from a member of school/college staff or employer.


The name of UCAS' online tracking system where you can see how your application is progressing, you can reply to offers and amend your personal details via this.

Unconditional offer

An offer of a place on a course with no conditions – the place is your if you want it.


Either you haven't been made an offer or haven't met the conditions of a conditional offer.


Before the decision has been made to make you an offer or not, you have chosen to withdraw your application to this course.


This is the system operated by UCAS to enable students to find places on courses that still have vacancies after the publication of the A level results. Although it is often for those who have not made the grades required by their chosen universities, it can also allow last minute applications.


This is a formal, instructive talk, given by a subject specialist, to a group of students. Students listen and make notes. There may be interaction between the lecturer and the students.


This is a discussion in a classroom setting that takes place in small groups. Students will need to prepare for these and apply what they have learned in a lecture.

Undergraduate (UG)

The first course that you undertake at higher education level. Once completed this can be followed by a range of Postgraduate (PG) courses such as Master's and PhDs.


Similar to a seminar but will usually involve working through subject related questions and problems with with the help of academic's.

BA, BSc, BEng, BEd

The type of subject discipline that your degree focuses on: BA, Bachelor of Arts; BSc, Bachelor of Science; BEng, Bachelor of Engineering; BEd, Bachelor of Education.

Students' Union

An organisation found in all universities that is run by students and is dedicated to the representation and support of the students at the university.


Athletic Union. The AU is responsible for all of the sporting teams of the university.


British Universities and Colleges Sport is the governing body for university sport in the United Kingdom.