What Does That Mean? Uni Jargon Explained

You’ve just started university and you are finally out of school. Congratulations! 🥳

It is the start of a new era on your learning journey but wait – what is everyone talking about? If you are confused by the uni jargon flying around your ears, here is your one-stop shop to get it translated.

If you are looking for something in particular, make sure to control F or Command F your way through this page to find the appropriate definitions.

If there’s a word you’d like translated – and it’s not in this list – let me know in the comments, I’ll give its meaning and update the list.


Bachelor Degree: Usually awarded after completing an undergraduate course. It is recognised worldwide and probably will be your first degree 🎉. Most Bachelor Degrees are 3-4 years, but there are exceptions to this.

Bridging Course: This is a short, intense course designed for students before university starts (in the summer break 😕), to help them reach the proficiency required in a subsequent unit they may be studying in the year.

Bridging Unit: This is a unit of study that helps provide students with the required level of proficiency in a subject area or skill before undertaking further study.

Census Date: The last day you can withdraw from a subject without financial or academic penalties. So, if you can’t stand a subject, get out while you can!

Course: Is a structure of units that allow you to achieve a certificate of completion in a particular discipline. A typical undergraduate degree is 3 – 4 years of fulltime study.

Credit Points: Are allocated to each successfully completed unit. They are an indication of how much study you have completed.

Credit Transfer: Recognition of prior study at another university or work experience, that can be used as credit points – meaning that you have to do fewer subjects! 😀

CSP: CSP stands for Commonwealth Supported Place. This means that the government subsides your fees by paying a part of it. If you are a full fee-paying student, then as the name suggests, you pay for your fees completely. The difference is quite large, sometimes in the thousands per subject.

Deferred Study: Taking a 6- or 12-month break after high school before starting your study at university. It is also commonly known as ‘Gap Year’.

Degree: Is the award given by the university after completing a course – normally for undergraduates it is the bachelor degree.

Double Degree: Combining two degrees simultaneously, so that students complete two courses effectively – but in less time. Still longer than a normal degree though.

Enrolment: The process of registering into a course.

External Study: Study that is done remotely from university. You have to come into uni very rarely for lectures, tutorials or practicals, and often if you do, these classes are bundled up.

Faculties: The academic division within which teaching and research at uni are conducted. Think of it as the subject faculties you had at school – except these include a whole diverse range of areas of learning.

Gap Year: Same as deferred study.

GPA: Grade Point Average (GPA) represents your academic standing (your marks perse). It is calculated out of 7 or 4, depending on the uni and can be important in getting into postgraduate courses. Find out more about GPA here

Graduate: A person who has successfully completed a course at uni.

HECS: HECS is short for Higher Education Loan Program, which is a loan you can get from the government if you are enrolled in a CSP. The loan can be used to pay your tuition fees, but not accommodation, laptops or textbooks. You will need a TFN to apply for HECS. You can find out more about HECS-HELP here.

Honours: Is another award that can be earned after a year of study that is additional to the bachelor degree. It is normally as an outcome of an honours program but sometimes is based on academic performance in your studies.

Labs/Practicals: Now, labs and practicals are different depending on the universities and the courses you are completing. But basically, they can vary from anatomy labs, computer simulation lab and your typical science labs for biology, chemistry and physics (though these labs may be larger and more technically savvy than those at school!)

Lecture: Is a presentation given by a lecturer or professor on a specific topic. It often occurs in a lecture hall and there are many students (can even be in the hundreds!) You are expected to listen carefully and take notes whilst the lecturer speaks. There is little guidance from the lecturer. Some lectures are recorded, depending on the university and the unit.

Lecturer: The person who delivers the information in the lecture to students.

Major: A collection of units that are recognised by the university to substantiate that you have specialised in a certain area.

Minor: A smaller collection of units in an area of study. 

Non-School Leaver: A student who begins university after more than a year of completing high school.

Online Courses: Courses that are delivered online, with little to no face to face contact between the lecturers and student.

Overloading: To enrol in more than the usual number of units in a semester (normally that is more than 4).

O-Week: Orientation Week! Your first taste of uni before those lectures start! It’s a whole week where you get to experience the uni campus, different societies and association and get free stuff. Each uni does it slightly differently but generally, you will get your enrolment sorted, along with an ID card, get to have a uni tour, an introduction lecture from your Faculty, sign up to the various clubs and societies at the uni (they will have their stalls) and get free food and goodies.

Postgraduate Student: Students that have already completed an undergraduate course and have continued their studies in another course.

Prerequisite: A subject or unit that is required before you can move onto anther unit.

Scholarship: Awards that have financial advantage, either through full or partial payment of fees. They can be awarded for a variety of reasons.

School Leavers: Students applying for admission based of their school results, that is your Year 12 ATAR.

Semester: An academic teaching period. Most universities have 2 semesters of about 18 weeks (12 – 13 weeks of teaching, 2-week holiday, a study week and 2 – 3 weeks of exam period). Some universities have trimesters, meaning there are three semesters in a year (I know! 😬), but they are shorter in length. Still quite intensive.

STUVAC or SWOTVAC (Depending on where you are from): STUVAC meaning study vacation as it is called in NSW, and SWOTVAC meaning studying without teaching vacation as it called in Victoria, is a just a study week. It is usually a week before the exam period starts and gives students an opportunity to study before the finals. Use it wisely!

TFN: Tax File Number (TFN) is needed to apply for HECS-HELP loan and if you ever want to work. There is a processing time for this, so don’t leave to the last minute – best to get it done in the summer holidays before you start uni (I know you want to relax after Year 12, but things have still got to be done). You can apply for it here.

Timetable: The timetable is your weekly guide as to what classes you have to attend every week for a semester. Depending on the unit, some classes will be allocated (i.e there is no other time or date for that class), whilst in others you will have flexibility. Make sure you choose a good timetable – because you will likely be stuck with it for the semester!

Tutor: Is a teacher who supervises and runs tutorial classes for a small number of students (much smaller than lectures).

Tutorial: Tutorial can differ between universities and units, but generally they are similar to a high school class. There are a smaller number of students, compared with lectures, that participate in discussion and activities.

Undergraduate: A student studying a bachelor degree is deemed an undergraduate or an undergrad.

Underloading: To enrol in less than the usual number of units in a semester (normally that is less than 4).

Unit: Is a component of study focussed on a particular subject or topic. Successful completion of a unit gives you a certain number of credit points (depending on the uni) that go towards completing your course. Basically, the equivalent of a subject at school. 

WAM: Weighted Average Mark (WAM) is the average of the marks you achieve in all your completed units in your course. It is another measure of academic standing often used by certain universities instead of GPA. You can find out more about WAM here.

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