University Terminology: Terms Related to Universities that you should know as an International Student

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A-Z University Terminology

When you first start at university, several of the phrases used in lecture rooms and corridors may be unfamiliar to you. This is because each university has evolved its jargon over the years. While existing students and professors are well-versed in it, international students frequently find it bewildering.  We recognize that you are from different cultures and do not want you to feel isolated. As a result, we decided to compile a dictionary of the most regularly used academic terms and phrases for your convenience. Check out this blog to find all the university terminology to ease your communication while studying abroad.

A-Z University Terminology

The following is a collection of vocabulary items related to universities and being a university student. Each word on the list contains a definition as well as its part of speech. You should try to learn the words now and keep the list handy for future reference. 

  • Assignment: University students’ homework. (noun)
  • Academic: Concerning schools, colleges, or universities. (adjective)
  • Academia: It is the academic community at universities that focuses on learning, teaching, and research. (noun)
  • Advisor: An advisor is someone who helps students organize their educational programs. (noun)
  • Audit: To Audit means to attend a course without receiving a grade. (verb)
  • Bachelor’s degree: The first degree earned by university students is called a bachelor’s degree. (noun)
  • Bursar: A college or university’s treasurer. (noun)
  • Campus: A university or college’s buildings and surrounding property. (noun)
  • College: A higher education institution where you can pursue your degree (in American English). (noun)
  • College of Further Education: A higher education institution or branch of a university that offers vocational or specialised education. (noun) 
  • Community College: A two-year college for students from the local community is called a community college. (American English). (noun)
  • Commencement: A formal ceremony in which students earn their academic degrees (American English). (noun)
  • Course: A course is a set of classes on a specific subject that is usually concluded with an exam. (noun)
  • Certificate: An official document proving you passed an exam or finished a course. (noun)
  • Curriculum: The disciplines covered in a college or university course of study. (noun)
  • Degree: A diploma awarded to students who have completed their studies at a college or university. 
  • Dean: A high-ranking university official in charge of a department or group of departments. (noun)
  • Department: A department is a division of a college or university that focuses on a specific field of study. (noun)
  • Dining Hall: A dining hall is a large space in a university building where students and faculty can eat together. (noun)
  • Diploma: A document issued by a college or university indicating that you have completed your studies or passed a specific exam. (noun)
  • Dissertation: The paper written at the end of a degree course is known as a dissertation. (noun)
  • Distance education: Distance education is a course in which students learn independently at home and communicate with teachers and other students via the Internet. 
  • Education: It is a type of education or training that tries to enhance knowledge and abilities. (noun) 
  • Enrol: To formally enrol in a course. (verb)
  • Exam: A formal assessment of a student’s knowledge or ability in a specific area. (noun) 
  • Faculty: A set of departments in a college or university that specialise in one or more areas. (noun)
  • Fail: To fail means to fail a test or exam. (verb)
  • Financial aid: It is money given or lent to a university student to help him or her pay for his or her studies. (noun)
  • First degree: The degree obtained by undergraduates. (noun)
  • Fraternity (American English): A social organisation for male university students. (noun)
  • Freshman: A first-year is first-year student in high school, college or university in the United States (American English). (noun) 
  • Fresher: A university student who is still in his or her first term (British English). (noun)
  • Freshers’ Week: A week at the start of a new academic year at the university dedicated to welcoming new students. (noun)
  • Graduate: To complete a degree at a university (verb); a university graduate. (noun)
  • Grant: A grant is a sum of money provided by the government to a student for them to pursue a course of study. (noun)
  • Halls of residence: A large facility on campus where most first-year university students live. 
  • Higher education (noun): Education provided at a college or university. (noun)
  • Homecoming: An annual celebration of former students hosted by a university or college (American English). (noun)
  • Instructor: A university lecturer who is below the position of assistant professor and teaches a restricted number of classes (American English). (noun)
  • Junior college: A two-year college where students study for the freshman and sophomore years of a four-year undergraduate course (American English). (noun)
  • Law school: A postgraduate educational institution that prepares students to become lawyers (American English). (noun) 
  • Lecture: A task in which students take notes while listening to the instructor. (noun)
  • Lecturer: A lecturer is someone who lectures at a university but is not a professor. (noun)
  • Major: The primary subject studied by a student in college or university. (noun)
  • Master’s degree: A university degree obtained after one or two years of study following your first degree is called a master’s degree. (noun)
  • Matriculation: The process of enrolling in school using a matriculation certificate. (noun)
  • Medical School: Medical faculty is another term for medical school. (noun)
  • Minor: The second most important subject studied by a student in college or university. (noun)
  • Pass: To pass an exam or test. (verb)
  • PhD: This is an abbreviation for Doctor of Philosophy, the highest university degree acquired via extensive research. (noun)
  • Polytechnic: A college that specialises in vocational education or the teaching of scientific and technical disciplines. (noun) 
  • Postgraduate: A postgraduate is a university student who has finished a first degree and is pursuing a higher degree. (noun); a higher level than a first degree. (adjective)
  • Prerequisite: A prerequisite is a course that must be taken before another. (noun)
  • Professor: A professor is a university professor of the highest degree. (noun)
  • Qualification: Completion of a course of study or passing of an exam. (noun)
  • Quiz: A quiz is a brief test given to students. (noun) 
  • Register: It means to register a name on an official list. (verb)
  • Registrar: The official in charge of student records. (noun)
  • Research: A rigorous and detailed examination of a subject to find new facts or put new ideas to the test. (noun)
  • Room and board: A sleeping quarters with food provided. (noun)
  • Roommate: A person with whom you share a room for a length of time while attending university. (noun) 
  • Sandwich Course: A sandwich course alternates times of study with periods of labour to offer students practical experience. (noun)
  • Semester: At university, a semester is one of two distinct periods. (noun)
  • Seminar: A seminar is a course that is provided to a small group of pupils. (noun)
  • Session: A school or university year is referred to as a session. (noun)
  • Sophomore: A university student in his or her second year (American English). (noun)
  • Spring break (American English): A two-week break from college or university in the spring. (noun)
  • Student loan: A student loan is a sum of money borrowed from the government or a bank to cover your studies at a university and which you must repay once you have completed your studies. (noun)
  • Student Union: A student union is a group of university students concerned with student rights, living circumstances, and so on. (noun) 
  • Syllabus: A syllabus is a list of subjects or books that will be studied in a specific discipline. (noun)
  • Term: One of the three periods that make up a year in university. (noun)
  • Textbook: A book containing thorough information on a subject studied at university. (noun)
  • Theological college: A theological college is a school that prepares students to become priests or church pastors. (noun)
  • Thesis: The paper completed after a doctorate is known as a thesis. (noun)
  • Training College: A training college is a college for adult students that provides training for a certain profession. (noun)
  • Transcript: An official record of a student’s courses taken and grades received (American English). (noun)
  • Tuition: Instruction offered to a small group or an individual in a college or university. (noun)
  • Tuition fees: The money paid by a student to receive an education at a university. (noun)
  • Tutor: A tutor is a teacher who works one-on-one with a pupil or a small group of students. (noun)
  • Tutorial: A tutorial is a one-on-one teaching session with a tutor. (noun)
  • Undergraduate: A student at college or university pursuing a first degree. (noun)
  • University: A university is a higher education institution where students study or conduct research to earn a degree. (noun) 
  • Varsity: The major team that competes for a college or institution in sports (American English). (noun)
  • Vice Chancellor: The person in charge of a college or university in the United Kingdom.

In the United States, the person in charge of some aspects of a college or university.

  • Warden: A person in charge of (the personnel in) a specific building/hostel.
  • Wardenship: The position of warden (= person in control) of a town, area, building, college, etc., or the powers associated with such a position 

Even before you are admitted, you are likely to encounter university jargon. Here are some terms that may help you understand things better during the application process:

  • A level: Advanced level certifications based on a student’s demonstrated competency and proficiency in acquiring knowledge. These are taken into account when your admission application is evaluated. Check the website of your selected university to see how many A level is required to gain admission.
  • Advising Agreement: This is a document in which you request admission to a specific course by demonstrating how it will benefit the university.
  • Signature Document: This is a form in your application that must be digitally signed. It demonstrates your understanding of the program’s rules and conventions.
  • Admission Average: This is the cumulative average of your high school grades required for admission.
  • Matriculate/Registration: Matriculate is to enrol in a university program or study.

It is a good idea to expand your vocabulary using the following grading-related words. Throughout the semesters, you will hear them being batted around. 

  • Credits: Academic Credit Points are referred to as credits. These are units used to establish if a student has satisfied academic requirements, and they are frequently calculated against time spent (known as credit hours) by you doing coursework to the satisfaction of the grader.
  • Grade Point Average: At the end of the academic year, universities abroad multiply your subject grades by your credit hours to calculate an average grade. GPA stands for Grade Point Average.
  • Adjustment: This is a grade modification that allows you to transfer to a better university or course during the academic year. This works by giving you the option to switch courses if your grades surpass the academic requirement for your present course. 

Must Read: What are College Credits and Why are they Important?

Here are some association names to be aware of if you want to feel like a university insider: 

  • Ivy League: The Ivy League refers to a set of eight highly regarded and competitive universities located in the northeastern United States. Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Yale University are among them.
  • Sororities: These are female university student societies. The goal behind these is to build a sense of community among students by encouraging and guiding one another. Fraternities are male student societies founded on similar principles.
  • Russell Group: The Russell collection is a collection of 24 well-known UK universities that was formed in 1994. These institutions are known for academic brilliance and an emphasis on academic research. Oxford and Cambridge are among the members of the association.

Must Read: List Of Ivy League Schools

This is what you might hear on campus if you hear the following terms:

  • Carrel: For a charge, graduate students can have a study room reserved at the library. This is referred to as carrel.
  • Dorms: Dorms are places offered by the University for student housing. These are also referred to as residence halls.

Must Read: Russell Group Universities

When you go to university, you will need to learn how to manage your finances. Why don’t we start with some phrases linked to the financial services that are available to you as a student? Here’s the skinny: 

  • Fellowship: A non-returnable financial aid award given by the government, school, or university to a student based on superior academic performance. Check the websites of the universities you’ve shortlisted to see whether you’re qualified for any fellowships.
  • Bursary: Non-returnable financial aid given to students depending on need. Bursaries for first-year students are available.
  • Scholarships: These are sums of money given to students based on their academic and personal achievements. This, too, does not have to be repaid. There are admission scholarships available. Simply look at your options on the university’s website. 
  • Work-study: Convenient, part-time, on-campus jobs for full-time students who require financial aid.

Must Read: Study Abroad Scholarships for Indian Students


These are the common university terminology that you’d need while studying abroad. We recognize that you come from many cultures and educational systems. These terms may be confusing at first, but don’t worry, you’ll get used to them. If you ever get lost, just come back and consult this dictionary! 


Q1. What is the full word for university?

Ans. The term university comes from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium, which roughly translates as “community of teachers and scholars.”

Q2. What is the base word of university?

Ans. University, like the word universe (“the entire world”), derives from the Latin word universus, which means “whole, entire.” Consider a university to be its own world – an institute of higher education where you live and study.

Q3. What are Cambridge terms called?

Ans. Term. Michaelmas (October to early December), Lent (January to early March), and Easter (April to mid-June) are the three terms of the academic year.

We hope this blog helped you ease your study abroad stress related to the new vocabulary. If you have any more questions regarding the whole process, including courses, visas, bank loans or anything else, please connect with Leverage Edu counselors at 1800 57 2000 and book your 30-minute free consultation.

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